The World Health Organization (WHO) has described corruption in the procurement of Covid-19 personal protective equipment (PPEs) as unacceptable and likened it to murder.
Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus answered questions from journalists during a press briefing on the pandemic in Geneva, Switzerland, on Friday.
“If health workers work without PPEs, we are risking their lives, and that also risks the lives of the people they serve. It is criminal, and it is murder, and it has to stop,” he said.
His remarks were in the wake of local concerns regarding corruption and funds wastage in Kemsa’s purchase of PPEs for health workers and other people.
Dr Tedros also expressed hope that the coronavirus pandemic will end in two years.
The WHO boss reminded his audience that the Spanish flu, which killed an estimated 50 million people from 1918 to 1919 took two years to contain.
He noted, however, that the closely-knit social system across the world has given it a chance to spread rapidly from person to person as well as across communities.
“Of course, with more connectedness, the virus has a better chance of spreading, said Dr Tedros.
Dr Tedros added that modern advances in technology can shorten the period needed to bring the pandemic under control.
“We have the technology and the knowledge to stop it. We need to foster national unity and global solidarity in our efforts to handle the emergency brought about by the pandemic,” he said.
But according to Prof Mark Walport of the United Kingdom’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), the battle against Covid-19 is not over yet.
“Covid-19 is going to be with us forever in some form or another,” he said in a Saturday interview with the BBC.
Prof Walport rooted for vaccination as the safest way out of the crisis
People will need re-vaccination at regular intervals, just like they get shots to immunise them against the flu virus.”
An NTV report on alleged graft in the procurement of Covid-19 supplies sparked furore, with many Kenyans calling for investigations into allegations that several companies ripped big from procurement deals.
On Friday, police lobbed teargas canisters to disperse protesters from Uhuru Park’s Freedom Corner to protest the state’s apparent reluctance to take action on the alleged Covid millionaires.
Carrying banners and chanting slogans, the protesters demanded the arrest and prosecution of individuals behind companies that charged inflated prices for PPEs.
“We are tired of an endless stream of news detailing how much money is being lost in the emergency response efforts. This money could be used in a better way to fight the pandemic,” said Buyer Beware administrator Wanjeri Nderu, one of the protest’s organisers.
Kemsa chief executive Jonah Manjari, directors Charles Juma (procurement) and Eliud Muriithi (commercial) were suspended as the Senate kicked off a probe into Kemsa’s purchase of PPEs worth Sh7.7 billion, alongside another probe by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC).
Also in the spotlight is the construction of a warehouse worth Sh5.5 bn.
The saga has sparked various reactions from Kenyans, with ODM Secretary-General Edwin Sifuna firing a salvo at government critics for sensationalising the alleged corruption around it.
In a strongly worded statement on Sunday, Mr Sifuna accused the media of “going on a sensationalist extravaganza that only ends up causing more problems than solutions”.
“We gather that the DCI has been called to investigate the Kemsa matter. We wonder how this can be, before a credible audit is carried out by the Auditor-General to prove the truth of these (graft) claims,” he said.
Despite police successfully scuttling the protests, the country is not yet out of the woods.
On the same day, doctors began in the capital city of Nairobi, which is also the pandemic’s epicentre in Kenya.
According to Dr Kaguiria Thuranira of the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Union (KPMDU), the 320 doctors employed by the county resorted to industrial action to demand better working conditions and adequate safety measures to protect them from infection.
“Among our grievances are poor quality protective gear, a small number of isolation wards set aside to treat patients and inadequate health insurance,” said Dr Thuranira.
So far, the disease has infected 23 million people and killed more than 800,000 globally.
Locally, 32,118 positive cases had been declared by August 22, including 542 deaths and 18,453 recoveries.