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CORONA VIRUS: WHAT THE WORLD AND KENYA ARE DOING ABOUT IT

The first case of Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) that was first reported from Wuhan, China, on 31 December 2019 has since spread to 54 more countries. According to the WHO there have been increased cases in Italy, the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Republic of Korea which are considered deeply concerning. In Africa Nigeria, Algeria and Egypt have confirmed cases of the virus.

The WHO is working with the World Bank and the IMF to estimate the potential economic impact of the epidemic and to develop a strategy and policy options for mitigation. It is expected that the fast-spreading coronavirus will have an impact on global economic growth and the International Monetary Fund is likely to downgrade its growth forecast as result. The CBK Governor Patrick Njoroge on the 25th of February stated that it is also considering economic growth adjustments based on the impact the disease may have on the Kenyan economy. He stated that China is a leading economic partner to Kenya however the Kenyan economy is widely diversified and the country may show resilience due to this.

The Coronavirus is disrupting the global manufacturing and supply chain and there have been forecasts on the likely industry impact. A report by Citi group has categorized the economic impact into three categories, immediate, protracted and positive.
• Immediate impact – Auto and Logistics, travel tourism, consumer discretionary, low demand
• Protracted impact – Financial institutions, real estate and construction , Oil and Gas (Negative impact of potential China slowdown on global oil and gas market)
• Positive impact- E-commerce, online entertainment and education, pharmaceuticals and healthcare

Dun & Bradstreet a business advisory firm have called for a diversification of supply chain to reduce dependencies on China. Further, that global corporations should work to identify alternative sources of products and raw materials to avert adverse effects on their businesses in the event they are unable to get supplies form China.

There have been no reported cases of the corona virus in Kenya however there are fears stemming from Kenya’s decision to allow flights from China into the country. The Kenyan healthcare system has in previous occasions proved quite competent and the country has been shielded from regional outbreaks like the Ebola virus. The government of Kenya has taken a number of preparedness measures including:-
• Setting up a National Emergency Response Committee on Corona virus earlier today via Executive Order. The Committee is composed of high ranking officials from various ministries including Health; Foreign Affairs; Transport, Infrastructure, Housing, Urban Development and Public Works; Defence; ICT Innovation and Youth Affairs; National Treasury; Interior and Co-ordination of National Government; other relevant Government offices including Office of the President, Kenya Civil Aviation Authority and the Kenya Airports Authority.
• Preparation of a COVID – 19 Contingency Plan
• Adoption of a whole government and multi-agency approach, at two levels (policy and technical).
• Activation of an emergency operations centre that is closely monitoring the evolution of the outbreak across the world with rapid response teams are on standby to investigate any alert.
• Diagnostic capacity through the Ministry of Health Kenya which has the necessary capacity for in – country testing of COVID-19.
• Mandatory screening is ongoing in all points of entry to minimize the risk of importation of the virus from affected countries. A total of 320,123 travelers have been screened across various points of entry since 20th January 2020 to date
• Human resources preparedness where 615 health workers in both public and private health facilities and at points of entry have been sensitized on how to deal with suspected cases. Additional health workers have been deployed at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA).
• Isolation facilities have been created at Kenyatta National Hospital and Governemnt is in the process of equipping a new ward with capacity of 120 beds at Mbagathi District Hospital to increase isolation capacity. The President has order completion in the next 7 days. All the points of entry have isolation/holding facilities and prepositioned personal protective equipment. A partnership with major private health facilities within Nairobi City to support provision of additional isolation facilities is underway.
• The President has ordered the identification and preparation of isolation treatment facilities in Level V and referral Hospitals across the Country to be completed by 15th March 2020.
• Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) are in adequate supply and more PPE sets are being mobilized.

It is expected that the fast- spreading Corona virus will have an impact on global
economic growth and the International Monetary Fund is likely to downgrade its  growth forecast as result

Public is not boarding

Following the Government’s decision this week to allow the resumption of flights between Kenya and China, there was uproar by the public with people question the Government’s level of commitment to protecting the health of Kenyans. The
topic has been trending a good part of this week, with some Kenyans stating that the 239 passengers who recently landed should be quarantined at State House and in the offices of the persons who authorised resumption of Kenya-China flights.

The Law Society of Kenya, Dr Jospeh Mithika Mwenda and Dr. Thiakanu Cyprian Mwirabua took issue with this matter and proceeded to court via 3 different cases and obtained court orders from Justice Makau barring China Southern Airlines
flights to and from Kenya; suspending flights from china to Kenya for 10 days because
of the Corona Virus; barring entry into Kenya of anyone from China whether by air or sea; and ordering that the 239 passengers recently arrived from China be traced, re-
examined by Government and quarantined at a KDF facility. 3 Cabinet Secretaries (Health, Transport and Foreign Affairs) are required to account to the court for each of the 239 passengers. These orders will also be applied to any other WHO-designated hot spot country adversely affected by the virus. Meanwhile, while it is currently under debate whether the Court Orders issued shall be executed, China Southern Airlines have suspended flights connecting Guanghzou, Changsha and Nairobi until further notice due to what the Chinese Embassy calls “low demand”. KEPSA is in the process of engaging it’s members to begin to calculate the projected economic impact of
the Corona virus on every sector. The results of the project will help KEPSA to develop a rapid response mitigation plan to minimize the impact of the outbreak on the Kenyan market.

Despite the above measures, it is important for businesses to be prepared in the event that the virus lands in Kenya. Kenya’s relatively weak healthcare system and Kenya’s socio-economic set up makes it a ripe target for any communicable disease outbreak. Also, there are huge doubts on the efficacy of the self-quarantine order that has been given to travelers from China. Should the virus make a landing in Kenya It may affect business operations and interactions with customers.

What Businesses may consider

Installing alcohol-based disinfectant dispensers in the office, regular hand washing is the best precautionary measure.
Develop policies on workplace safety where regular advisories and communication is made to staff and all stakeholders on possible safety measures.
Review the current work travel policy. The WHO does not actually advocate for travel restrictions, saying hand washing and usual precautions are sufficient however global corporations (including Nestle, Unilever, L’Oreal, PMI) have suspended international travel and a huge number international events have been cancelled. There are fears that the Olympics may be cancelled.
Ensure IT systems are capable of handling higher levels of remote work. Work-from-Home policies implemented for office workers in finance, logistics, insurance, law and other white-collar jobs.

WHO Guidelines – Basic Protective Measures

Wash your hands frequently
Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand rub kills viruses that may be on your hands.
Maintain social distancing
Maintain at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing. When someone coughs or sneezes they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person coughing has the disease.
Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth
Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and can make you sick.
Practice respiratory hygiene
Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately. Droplets spread virus. By following good respiratory hygiene you protect the people around you from viruses such as cold, flu and COVID-19.

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