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Kudos to media on coronavirus coverage

On Friday February 21, Milele FM Breakfast Show hosted by Alex and Jalas covered the outbreak of coronavirus that has sent the world into a panic for the last three months. The airborne disease whose epicentre is China has no known cure.

Alex and Jalas hosted a woman whose husband is completing his PhD in Wuhan, the town that is on lockdown following the outbreak. Another guest was a student who was lucky to leave the Chinese city mid-January just before lockdown to embark on his research.

The show hosts rang up a pregnant Kenyan student who is also in Wuhan to talk about her experience under weeks of quarantine.

The stories were heart breaking. The PhD student whose wife was in the studio has been in China for five years and had remained with just six months to complete his studies and return home. Now he cannot leave.

He is a father of three children and the stress the family is going through is unbearable. The children ask the mother questions she has no answers for about their father’s condition.

He says they can’t leave the city. Getting food, water or medicine is very difficult. They eat the same food everyday and it is never enough.

The pregnant student said she took more than two weeks to get her medical supplies at double the price because she had to pay for their transportation. She is anaemic and fears for her life and that of her unborn child.

The student dismissed Government Spokesperson Cyrus Oguna’s assertion that they were being well taken care of by the Chinese government.

The Sh1.3 million the government said it would be sending to students in Wuhan for upkeep would be of little help because they cannot move out of the quarantine zone to buy anything.

Alex and Jalas’s guests had one request to the government: Return the students to Kenya until coronavirus is cleared in China. They are suffering.

The Kenyan media has done a commendable job bringing out the human face of the coronavirus crisis since it broke out. On February 18, Daily Nation ran a story on the disease titled, “Kenyan students in Wuhan resort to video plea on virus.”

“One student after another pleads with the government to evacuate them throughout the video, saying the situation in Wuhan is becoming unbearable,” the paper reported.

But there are gaps in the coverage. One international media report said Chinese middlemen are stockpiling facemasks from Kenya and Tanzania for export to China. Some of the masks are packaged at a house in Kilimani, Nairobi.

The Kenyan media has not reported this. The point is that if coronavirus hits Kenya, the country might be short of facemasks to distribute to the people to prevent infection.

“As the battle against coronavirus rages on, supplies of masks and no-contact thermometer guns have dwindled in China. The Chinese government says the country can only produce 20 million masks a day, half of what is needed in the current crisis. So, in an effort to meet ramped up demand, enterprising middlemen are now turning to African nations where a relatively limited supply of masks are made,” the report said.

“At the Nairobi supplier where thermometer guns are being prepared for export back to China one worker notes: ‘What will happen if corona comes to Kenya? There’s nothing left for us…’”

This is a story the Kenyan media needs to report.

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