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Burials, the real risk of outbreak in Kenya

Government fears traditional ceremonies

14-04-2020 by Freddie del Curatolo

While Kenya exceeds 200 official cases of Coronavirus positivity after exactly one month from the "patient zero" imported from the United States via London (a Kenyan woman, it is worth remembering. after the many fears and anathemas launched by many Chinese first and then Italians), the Government continues to move intelligently, certainly beyond the most optimistic expectations.
The tactic is that of a team well aware of the health, social and public order problems of the country and the even ancestral habits of its people.
For this reason, in addition to the daily work of persuasion and the drumming message of respecting distances, washing hands and disinfecting oneself and putting on the mask, since yesterday the Ministry of Health has also decided on one of the problems that have already plagued Africa (not Kenya fortunately) during a recent epidemic, that of the Ebola virus.
The problem is represented by the traditions, the guardians of tribal heritage and rural villages, which represent at least half of the inhabitants of this country.
In particular, the fear of the great contagions is poured over the funerals, and two days ago there was concrete proof of this. One of the last patients to pass away, James Onyango, a fifty-nine year old employee of the Port of Mombasa, after returning to his native village in Siaya County, on Lake Victoria, showed clear symptoms of Covid-19 infection and after he died in a local clinic, the relatives arranged for him a "lightning" funeral at night, in contravention of the curfew in force in the country and especially by attending more than fifty relatives and countrymen, despite the provision not to exceed fifteen people, in addition to respecting the distance of at least one meter between the defendants.
When the police arrived, many of the participants disappeared, but as Health Minister Mutahi Kagwe himself reported, 45 people were recovered and taken to quarantine isolation facilities, while others are about to be traced, including some who fled at night.
According to Kagwe, funerals represent one of the real dangers for the spread of the virus and it is no coincidence that one of the first directives expressed by the Kenyan government concerns precisely the public events of a traditional nature, namely weddings and funerals.
It is clear that for Kenyans to go from funeral ceremonies lasting from 3 to 5 days with hundreds of people, relatives coming from other places or even from abroad, to quick burials lasting no more than a few hours and taking place as sober and aseptic as possible, is almost a tragedy. The fact that among the participants there are certainly relatives and people who have had recent relations with the dead Covid-19, makes these gatherings really dangerous, considering that ethnic traditions usually provide for dances, hugs and other rituals that totally contradict the directives of the Kenyan government, based on distance, to stay in their own habitat and not participate in any mass event. For this reason, the Minister has not ruled out even more restrictive measures and harsher penalties.
But so much so, the Kenyan people's worst enemy, at this time, even more so than the virus, are their habits and traditions which sometimes seem stronger and more rooted than life itself.

(photo: Leni Frau/malindikenya.net)

TAGS: funerali kenyacasi kenyapericoli kenyapaura kenya

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