By PROF. DR. HALIMU SHAURI
(Dean; School of Humanities and Social Sciences; Pwani University)
Epidemics are not just Epidemics! You are wondering what I mean! Yes, epidemics come with many innovations amongst the population, some positive and others negative.
To many of us COVID-19 is a problem, an insurmountable challenge. In fact, the way the epidemic was handled when it first landed in the country by the majority, including the government, signified the lethal nature of the virus.
In a way, all of us were to be scared about it. And if we were to do anything, it was to innovate positive ways to help mitigate it.
I want to take you to a brief journey of how we vilified the majority against coming with positive innovative ways of helping fight the virus. We closed colleges and universities, our centres of excellence, research and innovation.
If you do a mapping of our universities, public and private, you will find departments and sections or even divisions carrying the word innovation.
Where were these institutions to Innovate and help the country to deal with the virus if all of them were officially closed and staff ordered to work from home!
Looking back am wondering how laboratory technicians, scientists reliant on laboratories, engineers, including medical engineers and their students are working from home.
To scare innovations the communication from the national coordinating team has been consistent stay at home, be safe, self-quarantine etc.
Further, a curfew was imposed and later in some counties cessation of movement. All these measures instilled fear and rubbed in the minds of Kenyans and professionals in particular a mindset of inability and helplessness.
Many professionals were turned into a mindset of waiting for others to come up with solutions as they developed a feeling of I can’t do anything to help.
Indeed, these COVID-19 measures and fear mongering made many professionals to stop thinking.
Imagine how many doctors, I mean Doctors of Philosophy, Masters, Professors the country has had that have gone quite like their friends politicians! Imagine the waste of human resources or brains that together could have engineered Innovations to deal with the pandemic.
A few of those who on personal motivation decided to Innovate have shown us what we are missing and can achieve.
The Kenyatta University students and staff, KEMRI and Pwani University staff to mention but a few.
What if all scientists, researchers, engineers or professionals were encouraged to practice and help the fight? I am really sure we would have made a leap in mitigating COVID-19.
However, as we were busy closing colleges and universities, our centre of excellence and innovation it seems cartels were busy analyzing how to reap from the sad situation. Remember, I said one can innovate positively or negatively or can see COVID-19 as a scaring problem, while another one sees it as an opportunity.
From the complaints of those who were kept in forced quarantine from abroad that were all over the media, with some threatening to commit suicide and others paying bribes to move in and out of quarantine centres, it was becoming apparent that quarantine centres were being taken away by cartels and being converted into commercial centres and money minting factories.
From the recent story, originating from 001, going around in the social media and alleged reported to Muslim for Human Rights (MUHURI) for action, it glaring that there is clear “Cartelinization” of COVID-19 isolation centres.
I am yet to receive a convincing statement from the accused Institutions in the video story, meaning that there is some truth in the allegations.
The extent that their is a link from a medical practitioner, all the way to the isolation centres and laboratory or testing centre, characterize a clear picture of a cartel.
The modus operandi being to convince a client to go for the test, send the client to the isolation centres with a promise of quick results and reveal to them that they have to stay for 14 days in the centre and then charge them for staying and enjoying the facilities.
This revelation throws into a big challenge the state aim of Mass Testing. While the Governor of Mombasa County was crying the low turnout in mass testing centres, I did wrote explaining why the low turnout in my sister article and now it must be very obvious to him and team that there is a huge problem to surmount.
Making people to embrace mass testing is being made to become an elephant task by cartels.
Finally, I want to urge the government to handle this as a crisis that can reverse the gains made so far in mitigating COVID-19, especially the idea to move forward towards mass testing.
Government agencies charged with criminality and security must move fast to identify the cartel, if any, dismantle it in earnest.
The government should then strengthen the national coordinating team with experts in behavior change, especially psychologists, sociologists and crisis and persuasive communication experts to deal with the “Cartelinization” of COVID-19 isolation centres that have been exposed.
Video rights and responsibility courtesy of producer