The Star (Kenya)

‘In the Last 24 hours’ Covid-19 brief sta­tis­tics to flat­ten the curve a fraud

Num­bers have been fall­ing rather dra­mat­i­cally with­out con­cise ex­pla­na­tion hence re­duced pub­lic in­ter­est

- KIBISU KABATESI @ es­tarkenya Com­mu­ni­ca­tions con­sul­tant Health · Chilean Ministry of Health · Ministry of National Health Services, Regulation and Coordination · Ministry of Health (Saudi Arabia) · Kenya · Dominican Republic

Since coronaviru­s struck us in March, the Min­istry of Health has em­barked on a daily brief­ing de­coded as “In the last 24 hours”.

At the be­gin­ning, the bul­letin re­vealed the virus was in Kenya, what the prog­no­sis was and the gov­ern­ment con­tain­ment mea­sures against its spread. at’s how the stay home, avoid phys­i­cal con­tact (keep so­cial dis­tance), wear masks, wash hands and sani­tise con­tain­ment id­ioms came into vogue.

ese were fol­lowed rapidly by is­suance of travel re­stric­tions, a coun­try­wide cur­few, clo­sure of schools, ban on gath­er­ings, in­clud­ing fu­ner­als and po­lit­i­cal meet­ings, and tar­geted lock­downs. e en­force­ment by the po­lice was bru­tal.

But it’s the col­lat­eral dam­age that “In the Last 24 hours” mea­sures wrought on the econ­omy that wasn’t fore­told. Busi­ness sim­ply went into a spin of clo­sure, re­dun­dancy, job losses and home­less­ness fol­lowed.

e con­tain­ment mea­sures sim­ply meant work­ers couldn’t go to work, while cus­tomers van­ished. In­ter­est­ingly, a new cot­tage in­dus­try sprung up to meet de­mands for masks, soap and sani­tiser but not enough to fill the gap cre­ated by Covid-19 rav­ages on pro­duc­tion, con­sump­tion and em­ploy­ment.

Mean­time, the daily “In the Last 24 hours” gath­ered steam as a must­see me­dia show. e thrill was in the ex­hor­ta­tions to abide by the con­tain­ment mea­sures, and the stream of num­bers of the tested, in­fected and the dead. In-be­tween would be added comic relief in new mea­sures, for in­stance, the one-sausage-fourbeers coun­ter­foil to beat al­co­hol con­sump­tion edict.

But the ec­stasy soon waned off “In the Last 24 hours” show as the pub­lic lapsed into the old nor­mal as if in com­pe­ti­tion against gov­ern­ment de­crees. e more gov­ern­ment bent back­wards to meet the Kenyans ex­pec­ta­tions to re­lax con­trol mea­sures, the more they re­verted to the old nor­mal. Pub­lic ap­a­thy isn’t with­out jus­ti­fi­ca­tion. e num­bers of the tested, in­fected and the dead had lost its ini­tial mag­netism.

ey have been fall­ing rather dra­mat­i­cally with­out con­cise ex­pla­na­tion hence re­duced pub­lic in­ter­est. Where one would ex­pect pro­por­tion­ate rise in in­fec­tions given the ac­knowl­edge­ment of com­mu­nity trans­mis­sion and spread, there has been deaf­en­ing si­lence on the causal­ity fac­tor. Why while com­mu­nity in­fec­tion con­tin­ues un­abated, in­fec­tions have re­duced dra­mat­i­cally? What’s the cor­re­la­tion that gov­ern­ment isn’t telling the pub­lic?

I think “In the Last 24 hours” is a scan­dal of huge pro­por­tions in gov­ern­ment dere­lic­tion of duty and ab­ro­ga­tion of the con­sti­tu­tional right to know. is is much more than the Kemsa money raid be­cause it di­rectly com­pro­mises the lives of Kenyans and de­nies them the right to know the sever­ity and spread of the virus.

First, we know — and gov­ern­ment ad­mits — that it hasn’t been able to fol­low through the promised “mass” test­ing that there never was. e ef­fect of mass test­ing would’ve pro­vided prox­i­mate sever­ity sta­tus and area specifics be­cause of the large sam­ples in­volved. In­stead, the coun­try has been treated to a drip based on minute sam­ples, whose source was ini­tially not even at­trib­uted.

When source at­tri­bu­tion be­gun, sam­ples were con­cen­trated in ma­jor ur­ban cen­tres. With coun­ties left to their own de­vices, the sam­ples weren’t na­tion­ally rep­re­sen­ta­tive.

e ex­cuse was that the virus spread was more lethal in crowded poor ur­ban neigh­bour­hoods than in ru­ral ar­eas. ere­fore, sam­ples were high be­cause of easy ac­cess, so were in­fec­tions, but from lim­ited ge­og­ra­phy.

De­spite this lim­i­ta­tion, there is the odd as­ser­tion of the virus be­ing “dis­cov­ered” chrono­log­i­cally in one county af­ter an­other, even as the sam­ples have dwin­dled from a high of 6,000 to an av­er­age 2,000. Why?

Sec­ond, the scan­dal is that gov­ern­ment is forg­ing re­duced num­bers to mean a de­crease in the rate of in­fec­tions thus “flat­ten­ing the curve”.

e fake is in the con­tra­dic­tion of ac­cept­ing that the coun­try has lim­ited sur­veil­lance, track­ing, con­tact trac­ing and test­ing ca­pac­ity but cre­at­ing the im­pres­sion that in­fec­tions are com­ing down.

ird, when it be­came ob­vi­ous that com­mu­nity in­fec­tion would be dev­as­tat­ing af­ter lift­ing lock­downs, coun­ties were re­cruited to car­ry­out track­ing and con­tact trac­ing with­out test­ing ca­pac­ity.

With few and far be­tween test­ing cen­tres in the coun­try, this ex­er­cise was in vain and ex­posed the coun­try’s univer­sal health care van­ity didn’t com­men­su­rate with poor in­vest­ment in the health sec­tor.

It gave rise to ques­tions about the va­lid­ity of the daily 24-hour cir­cle sta­tis­tics of test re­sults. is was the first sign that “In the Last 24 hours” lay a scan­dal of in­ac­cu­racy be­cause test­ing could’ve been done within 24-hours, but by no means were all the re­sults ob­tained within that time.

Fourth, de­pleted of re­sources, coun­ties barely car­ried out mean­ing­ful sur­veil­lance, en­force­ment of con­tain­ment mea­sures and pro­vid­ing PPE. ey soon gave up on the pre­tence, in­clud­ing the un­truth­ful fash­ion of set­ting up quar­an­tine and iso­la­tion cen­tres. Gov­ern­ment quickly filled the void with an­other ex­per­i­ment in self-iso­la­tion and now home-based care. Both are largely im­prac­ti­cal fa­cades for poor Kenyans who’re on their own and have re­verted to old rou­tines as if Covid-19 doesn’t ex­ist.

Fifth, what does this mean? at we don’t know the sever­ity of Covid-19 in the coun­try and “In the Last 24 hours” is mis­lead­ing. In fact, ex­perts are of the view that “In the Last 24 hours” num­bers are now based on cap­tive in­sti­tu­tional tar­gets such as pris­ons and not ran­dom pub­lic tests.

is damn­ing al­le­ga­tion is but­tressed by an­other even more shock­ing in­sight. In a story in the Star on Mon­day (un­for­tu­nately tacked in in­side pages) that ex­poses “In the Last 24 hours” as a dis­grace, the Kenya Med­i­cal Prac­ti­tion­ers, Phar­ma­cists and Den­tists Union re­veals in State ly­ing about Covid-19 curve flat­ten­ing, doc­tors’ union al­leges, that we’re be­ing taken for a night­mare ride.

e union sec­re­tary gen­eral Dr Gor Goody lifts the veil on “In the Last 24 hours” out­rage stat­ing that peo­ple suf­fer­ing from non-com­mu­ni­ca­ble dis­eases such as hy­per­ten­sion, di­a­betes, can­cer and the aged are get­ting Covid-19 and dy­ing with­out be­ing tested.

She’s quoted say­ing, “mor­tu­ar­ies are ab­nor­mally full, which means the mor­tal­ity rate has in­creased. But we are not get­ting the right sta­tis­tics.

e gov­ern­ment is only claim­ing the curve is flat­ten­ing. How is it flat­ten­ing?” With that, one won­ders how “In the Last 24 hours” will ex­plain a surge in in­fec­tions soon.

Mean­while, Dr Goody at­tributes lack of sta­tis­tics to short­age of ca­pac­ity to do more tests and “that is why the num­ber of in­fec­tions given daily by the gov­ern­ment is re­duc­ing”.

She con­firms that “In the Last 24 hours” is a fal­lacy be­cause “those tested take up to one to four weeks to get their re­sults” and adds the numb­ing sus­pi­cion that “the num­ber of in­fec­tions should be go­ing up es­pe­cially when gov­ern­ment lifted move­ment re­stric­tions lead­ing to high ur­ban-ru­ral mi­gra­tion.” True of false?

I can­not be­grudge the in­sight of a med­i­cal prac­ti­tioner of Dr Goody’s rank­ing, nei­ther could I sec­ond guess a so­cial me­dia post that reck­ons, “e curve has been flat­tened to pave way for ref­er­en­dum on con­sti­tu­tion changes to al­low a broad gov­ern­ment which will be a bur­den to a tax payer” when po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­ity has re­sumed with a vengeance.

Just like Covid-19 gave birth to Kemsa theft, it has con­ceived “In the Last 24 hours” fraud.


 ?? /REUTERS ?? A health worker takes a swab from a truck driver dur­ing a test­ing for the coronaviru­s at the Na­manga bor­der on May 12
/REUTERS A health worker takes a swab from a truck driver dur­ing a test­ing for the coronaviru­s at the Na­manga bor­der on May 12
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