Closed indefinitely.
"Closed indefinitely.” What does that even mean?

COVID-19 is killing me before it does.

Staring at his ceiling, Sam Mutahi, a bar and restaurant owner, constantly replays President Uhuru Kenyatta's speech on a partial lockdown which included closure of restaurants and bars in Nairobi and four other regions. And just like that, Sam was sent back to the drawing board at a juncture when his business was starting to have a semblance of recovery from effects of the earlier COVID-related lockdown. Bank loans remained due.

It was okay a year ago. And although the lockdown and its attendant setbacks came as a still shocking expected shock, many managed to convince themselves that they would survive. The rest of the world was pushing on or at least trying to. Why not us?

But now, it all feels like a bad marriage. You want to leave but also want to stay. You understand the scientific need for the lockdown but refuse to reconcile this necessity with the burdensome reality that comes thereafter.

As the pandemic enters its second year, new variants have caused a surge and necessitated renewed lockdowns. As a result, a far more devastating economy. Multiple juggernaut effects are permeating life as we know it, ravaging anyone and anything on its way. This has pushed many to the edge of the cliff, where some of those at the furthest end have given in.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), close to 800,000 people died by suicide annually pre-COVID. For every suicide, WHO reports there having been more than twenty corresponding attempted suicides, with unemployment alone being blamed for a two to threefold increase in the risk of suicide. Therefore the ongoing Covid and non-COVID related spike in unemployment should be cause for alarm.
Am i next?

Am I next?

My social media feed reads like an endless obituary. Parents mourning their children. Children mourning their parents. Friends mourning friends. I cannot help but wonder, am I next?

I find myself suffocating under a cloud of sadness. It is a new sadness, different from the one I endured in the early stages of the pandemic. There is increased fatigue, pandemic fatigue. My sorrows, and indeed those of many others, come layered. Holidays without loved ones. Soaring unemployment. Business shutdowns. Heightened fear and anxiety.

A study published by Globalization and Health found that our emotional challenges, from anxiety and depression to anger and fear, have been deepened by the pandemic. And there being no guarantee of vaccination for many, the accumulated uncertainty only makes matters worse.

There’s now a hierarchy of fears. I could lose my job. But at least I’ll still be alive. I could lose a loved one. But at least I’ll still be alive. I could get infected. But at least I’ll still be alive. Or I could die.
I am not a COVID millionaire

I am not a COVID millionaire

A man passed by a building and walked away a millionaire. How did he do it?

It reads like a riddle. Puzzling yet intriguing. But I kid you not, that is precisely how James Njuguna landed a KSh. 180 million tender to supply the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (KEMSA) with Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs), going by his version of events as narrated to a dumbfounded Public Investment Committee in parliament.

Now, I used to think myself lucky. I once won fifty shillings at the Charity Sweepstakes lottery after buying a ten-shilling ticket. Another time, I won a bucketload of Mara Moja tablets and merchandise at the brand's exhibition stand during one of the annual Agricultural Society of Kenya International Trade Fair. Still, to randomly walk into a multi-million contract? I have to reconsider my position on luck.

But while I re-examine my walking paths, I am reminded that many of the Covid-19 emergency equipment procured at inflated prices and, through dubious tenders, allegedly continue to collect dust at the KEMSA warehouse. While this could fly like the many other scandals in Kenya, lives were lost and continue to be lost due to lack of protective equipment for frontline workers mitigating against COVID-19.
 I am Zoomed Out

I am zoomed out

At the advent of Covid-19, social distancing protocols, some as prohibitive to a point of attracting hefty fines, placed a strong chokehold on in-person contact. And then Zoom happened.

Can you see me?

Please mute your audio.

This became the lingo in our day to day interactions.

Let me paint you a picture. After COVID-19 broke, the video conferencing platform grew in leaps and bounds, reportedly registering over 300 million daily participants in Zoom meetings, precipitating the skyrocketing of its stock price from $60 to nearly $570 a share in October 2020.

But now, unfortunately, the very thing that filled the gaping loneliness of the pandemic has become the bane of my existence.

Do not get me wrong. I appreciate the role Zoom played, especially in remote work, a practice which companies viewed with scepticism pre-pandemic. But now, home time and office time have become indistinguishable. Moreover, schooling online isn't as fun as earlier imagined.

A study published in the journal Technology, Mind and Behavior by Stanford Professor Jeremy Bailenson, identified four factors of prolonged video chats that contribute to "Zoom fatigue", Zoom being synonymous with all video conferencing platforms. The first reason attributed to Zoom fatigue is intense and close eye contact. Ordinarily, people will look at the speaker or elsewhere. But with Zoom, the focus is on the faces on the screen, even when one is not a speaker.

Another pain point is constantly having to look at one's face. Studies have shown that when one sees their own reflection persistently, they become more critical of themselves. Thirdly, Zoom has become tiresome considering one’s mobility is hampered whenever they sit still for an extended period of time. And finally, the inability to pick up non-verbal cues while on Zoom makes virtual conversations less enticing.

For these and other reasons, I and others like me are Zooming out.

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