The first Covid-19 case in Kenya was confirmed on 12th March 2020 just one day after being declared a pandemic. Since the severity of the pandemic started being felt across the globe, several effects started being experienced and witnessed. 

Kenyans, like other citizens across the globe, started being more alert and coming out freely to educate others concerning the emerging enemy.

The government of Kenya went ahead to initiate an economic recovery initiative to cushion Kenyans from the harsh effects of the pandemic. The continuous spread of the COVID-19 pandemic stimulated different organizations to come in with a different variety of donations, some from private sectors and some from philanthropic individuals. The main aim was to join hands to fight the new enemy that could not recognize status. Unity was necessary and many Kenyans could say ‘Save me I save you ‘.

How is the Covid-19 situation in Kenya two years on?

Updates concerning the pandemic as of 31st December 2021.

As the pandemic continues to spread across the country and more people getting tested, the total confirmed positive cases as of 31st December 2021, according to the National Emergency Response Committee on Coronavirus is 297,155 while the cumulative tests that had been conducted by that time were 3,036,982 and fatalities were 5,381. 

Health workers are in the constant fight to curb the disease, fortunately, sometimes they win the war as some patients recover from the disease. For instance, as of 31st December 2021, the total recoveries stood at 253,715. From the population, it’s good for you to know that 204,590 were basically from Home-base care and isolation programs while the remaining 41,125 were from various health facilities across the country. The home-based care system, as you could remember, was initiated in May 2020 due to the overwhelming health systems as COVID cases were increasing rapidly.

Talks concerning vaccination

On 3rd March 2021, Kenya received the first batch of covid-19 vaccines, a total of  1.02 million doses of the AstraZeneca oxford Covid-19 Vaccine. The Kenya government through the Ministry of Health approved the AstraZeneca oxford Covid-19 Vaccine, alongside other vaccines namely Pfizer, Moderna, Sinopharm, and Johnson &Johnson. 

Astra-Zeneca Oxford Covid-19 Vaccine, Pfizer, Moderna, and Sinopharm are administered in two doses at an interval of between 4 to 12 weeks while Johnson &Johnson is administered as one dose for you to be fully vaccinated as the World Health Organization [WHO] recommends.

The first batch was given priority to frontline workers who include, health workers and those in the education profession, uniformed officers and the aged above 58 years. 

As of 31st December,  10,100,193 vaccines had been administered at that time; of which 5,862,875 were partially vaccinated while those who had been fully vaccinated were 4,206,106. Kenyans between 15-18 years received 20,868 doses while booster doses were 11,144.

Diversity of information and communications concerning vaccination.

As the vaccines were being rolled out to be made available to Kenyans, fear and anxiety were witnessed among Kenyans as most feared the jab.

While there was so much sensitization, there were also myths and misconceptions around the vaccination that spread fear.  People were curious if there were health implications upon taking one that really slowed down the vaccination process. 

However, with time, more people came out to support the governments move to sensitize citizens for vaccination. The government also developed a digital platform [Chanjo-KE] to support COVID vaccine delivery to show registration, vaccine schedule, and digital certification including installation of 800 vaccination centres in both private and public entities. 

The inter-religious leaders launched a three-month vaccination campaign to declare their support for vaccination. They backed up the government’s effort for vaccination. They urged other religious leaders to shun away myths and misconceptions about vaccination and be ready to take a jab and protect their own health 

Were there any innovations to curb the spread of COVID-19?

As the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic were being felt across the Country, innovative and creative minds could not hesitate to improvise some facilities so that they could reduce the pandemic’s effects. This includes few organizations, institutions of higher learning, and a few committed individuals 

For instance,15 Medical and Engineering students from Kenyatta University, a Kenyan University, could not tolerate the severeness of the pandemic as they innovated to fill in the Covid-19 ventilator shortage. According to the innovators, the ventilator could detect oxygen and normal air then it gives it enough pressure and volume required to ventilate a patient.

Also, the Dedan Kimathi University of Technology, a Kenyan University engaged in the Voluntarily making of the Personal Protective Equipment [PPE’s] to fight against the epidemic. The University committed itself towards the production of Face masks to protective suits and they were aiming to produce ventilators hence boosting the critical health system.

Did the Kenya Government take any relief actions amid COVID-19?

Due to uncertainties because of the pandemic, the Kenyan government, like any other government around the world, could not forget to support citizens and businesses. In his speech that he read on 25th March 2020, Kenya’s President announced various directives intended to provide relief to businesses, employees, and taxpayers.

Specific tax measures that were proposed include 100% tax relief for Kenyans who were earning a Gross monthly income of up to Ksh.24,000. There was a reduction in the income tax rate, known as Pay-As-You-Earn [PAYE] from 30% to 25%. Resident income tax [corporation tax] was reduced from 30% to 25%. The turnover tax rate was reduced from where it was,3% to 1% for all Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises [MSME’S].

There was a reduction in the Value Added Tax [VAT] from 16% to 14% and the order was to be implemented and take effect as of 1st of April,2020. What about as far as cash flows for businesses are concerned? The Kenya Revenue Authority [KRA] directed to expedite the payment of all the Verified Value Added Tax [VAT] refund claims that were amounting to 30 billion within 3 weeks or allow the offsetting of Withholding VAT to allow cash flows for businesses.

The president went further and placed many economic measures; including the appropriation of additional Kh.10Billion to the elderly, orphans and any other vulnerable members of our society through Cash transfers by the Ministry of Labor and Social protection to cushion from harsh economic conditions due to COVID -19. Also, a directive that most Kenyans including you must have lauded is the temporary suspension of the listing with Credit Reference Bureaus [CRB] for any individuals, Micro Small and Medium Enterprises [MSME’s], and of course corporate entities whose loan account either fall overdue or is in arrears. The directive was to be implemented on 1st April 2020.

The Ministries and Departments were not spared. Ministries and departments were directed to pay Ksh.13 billion of the verified pending bills from 25th March and do it within 3 weeks. The private sector was also encouraged to clear all the outstanding payments among themselves. The aim of this was to improve liquidity in the economy and ensure that businesses remain afloat by enhancing their cash flows. The directive was to take effect in three weeks’ time from 25th March. A directive concerning the appropriation of Ksh.1Billion from the Universal Health Coverage Kitty to support recruitment of health workers to combat COVID.

Another directive and a relief for you who borrow from the banks was the lowering of the Central Bank Rate [CBR] from 8.25% to 7.25 % which will, in turn, make commercial banks lower the interest rates to their borrowers. Also, the lowering of the Cash Reserve Ratio [CRR] from 5.25% to 4.25% to provide additional liquidity of Ks.35 billion to Commercial banks to support borrowers that were humiliated due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Important for you to note is that the President directed the National Treasury to implement the directives of relief immediately.

The aspect of Fake news and Myths

Upon the emergence of COVID-19 from Wuhan China in December 2019, various rumours emerged from the global population including you Kenyans. Some of you assumed that it is a Chinese disease that cannot spread all over the world. Even the former United States President Donald Trump believed that it was a Chinese disease and ignored all the WHO protocols altogether.

Africans upon seeing the high death rates among the Whites believed that their dark skin colour could not contract the disease since a limited number of Africans were succumbing from the disease. Kenyans particularly could not believe the daily briefings by the Ministry of Health officials and rumours emerged that Kenya is updating daily on COVID infections to get ‘more money ‘from donors.

Fake news concerning COVID -19 pandemic was everywhere on the social media platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp.There is a case where a senior government official in Kilifi County, the deputy governor, publicly disobeyed COVID-19 protocols and termed the COVID updates as fake. It was only after prominent people in Kenya started dying that Kenyans believed the reality of COVID-19 or after one loses a close relative. Despite this, believe me, or not, up to date, some Kenyans don’t believe that COVID -19 exists!  

Variety of donations to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in Kenya.

The COVID-19 Pandemic was really hitting hard, and the government had done all it could through the Ministry of Health [MoH]. You could see the government’s effort through mobilization, vaccination, and constant communication and updates on the media. As a result, various organizations, public and private sectors including philanthropic individuals could be seen giving a hand through donations with the aim of supporting the central government.

On 25th August 2021, the Ministry of Health received donations of medical equipment and Personal Protective Equipment [PPE’s] from the World Health Organization [WHO] . The equipment worth Ksh.32.1 spearheaded the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Principal Secretary Susan Mochache received the donations and called upon the government and its partners to put hands together to deal with the crisis. She also thanked the media for its constant role in sensitizing Kenyans 

On 28th November 2020, the Ministry of Health received donations from World Vision. The donations worth Ksh.536,500 were aimed at protecting the health workers who were at the forefront in fighting the pandemic. The donations included 50 knapsack sprayers meant to disinfect public spaces and health facilities.

The Association of Southeastern Asian Nations [ASEAN] while on a mission in Kenya, supported Kenya with Ksh.280,000. The 2700 USD was supported to encourage the Kenyan government in the fight against the pandemic. The ASEAN countries’ mission in Nairobi was simply showing their solidarity with the Kenyan government and you as the citizens during the pandemic.

The European Union [EU] donated Ksh.270 million to World Health Organization [WHO] Kenya through the Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations [ECHO]. The WHO Kenya used the donation to train the workers at the national and county governments to boost the fight against the virus.

A donation of the Modena COVID-19 vaccine was made by the United States Embassy in Nairobi on 6th September 2021. The donation was the effort of the US to combat the fight of COVID-19 in the whole world. The United States was pleased with its effort to assist you as Kenyans with the aim of curbing the deadly virus.

Kenya Medical Training College [KMTC] received 500,000 surgical masks in the form of donations from Kenya Covid-19 Emergency Response Fund Board through close partnership with the Equity Group Foundation. The fourth-year KMTC students were doing clinical practice as they received the donations.

At the individual level, the Chinese businessman Jack Ma, on March 24th, 2020 donated  Medical supplies that were received by the Ministry of Health. The tycoon donated 25,000  testing kits, protective gear, masks, and medical equipment 

The Bloggers Association of Kenya’s  take on Covid -19 pandemic Response 

Towards the end of 2020, BAKE took an initiative to advance the response towards the containment of the virus in Kenya to create content that will see the government succeed in its efforts to mitigate the pandemic in Kenya. As such, we partnered with DW Akademie to create content on covid-19  “Covid-19 Response in Africa” a project that was geared towards creating public awareness of the pandemic in Kenya. This project was sponsored by the EU in Kenya. 

Although there have been improvements on the covid-19 response, misinformation and disinformation still is the biggest challenge we are facing especially theories around vaccination that have slowed down the vaccination process in the country.

As we stand, our biggest challenge with  covid-19 is misinformation as the biggest barrier that we need to demystify. How to bridge the misinformation gap. There is a lot of disinformation and misinformation around the covid-19 pandemic that includes hazardous self-medication techniques that we need to demystify.

Through the pandemic period, BAKE partnered with content creators and other partners to create content that will create more awareness to the public on the pandemic.

Africa Check, a non-profit fact-checking organization in Africa also took up the steps to demystify fake news around the pandemic. So far, they have trained journalists on how to report the right COVID-19 and tools where to get credible information on COVID-19 and even check image sources prior to posting them.

speaking during the BAKE Covid-19 Response in Africa event that was held at the Baraza Media Lab on December 15th, Sylvia Makinia, Africa Check Reprenetative said “To bridge the misinformation gap, We took up the steps to demystify fake news. we trained journalists on how to report the right covid-19 and tools where to get credible information on Covid-19”

As a result of the diverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the many rumours and beliefs surrounding it, the Bloggers Association of Kenya [BAKE] took an initiative to campaign and therefore disregard the fake news about the same. The community organization called upon its members to remain vigilant amidst the virus as some of the Members took personal initiatives and responsibilities to give a hand to society amidst the pandemic. Throughout the year, BAKE has held all its activities virtually or if physical with so much precaution and Covid-19 protocols followed. 

Various issues concerning the Covid-19 pandemic were also raised during the event. There were calls for respecting COVID -19 barrier measures put in place by the World Health Organization [WHO] and enhanced by the Ministry of Health [MoH] hence a great step towards achieving the fight against the virus.

Fakenews globally is also a major concern that has slowed down the covid-19 response. WhatsApp was noted to be a social media that spreads most fake news. Present members noted an increase in domestic violence due to lockdowns.

As content creators and advocates of credible news, we need to be innovative and pass credible and reliable information on Covid to schools and various online platforms and create information that the audience could understand. 

The Panelists generally agreed that it is not yet time to let our guard down. We must mask up! The Panelists too were against the spread of fake news and misinformation hence unanimously agreed that to reduce misinformation, one must verify the source. 

 Despite the fake news and myths surrounding every effort, the government has been able to administer vaccines, communicate to people as some of them responded positively after intense public awareness.

Reporting on covid-19 was one of the complex subjects for nay newsroom across the globe. Looking back at the tremendous work our community members have done is really fulfilling. We also give thanks to our partner DW Akademie and The EU in Kenya fully supporting and sponsoring this project to its fruition.

 The war against the COVID pandemic is not over hence the need for all of us to remain vigilant to fight the disease and make progress.