Cab drivers encounter with dreaded virus and his 1,000-plus contacts

In his desperate quest to make ends meet, perhaps he was not as careful as he should or could have been

A taxi driver pulled over outside Yaya Centre in Nairobi last week. It was around 4pm and he was exhausted and frustrated. He had made only Sh250 after nine hours online. He contemplated doing one more round within the area but the fuel was low.He already owed the cab owner Sh36,000 and this was now a new week; the money owed would rise to Sh45,000. With that realisation he made the decision to call the owner, a middle-class single mother living in Kilimani Estate.

She worked with a non-government organisation in Westlands but on that day she was working from home. They decided to meet at her house. He drove there and they had a conversation. They also had tea served by the house help, who lives in the Kibera slums.

The cab driver was remorseful about the situation and they agreed that he should take a break. The owner assured him not to worry about the debt and even gave him Sh2,000 to buy food for his family. After all, they had been partners for three years and she felt it was the least she could do.

The taxi driver had a nagging cough the whole time. Oh well, it had been raining and he had been out at night all month. He took a Number 8 bus until Adams Arcade on Ngong Road, alighted and took a Number 102 bus to Kikuyu, where he lived. He still felt unwell and thought he would have warm lemonade once he got home.

At Kikuyu Town, he decided to do some shopping in one of the supermarkets and then took a boda boda motorcycle taxi to his house. When he arrived, he decided to say hallo to his elderly parents who lived in the same compound before entering his house.

His three children were very happy as Daddy never came home that early. His wife was also glad because hubby was home safe. The family ate chapati for supper. Unfortunately, Baba was still coughing and complaining of what he thought was malaria.

They retired to bed. He got worse overnight  coughing, short of breath and complaining of discomfort in his chest. At 5am, when the dusk-to-dawn curfew elapsed, he got up and prepared to rush to a local dispensary. But on the way he had second thoughts  he had made many rides within Kilimani, which reportedly had the highest number of Covid-19 cases in Kenya what if?

He opted to go to Mbagathi County Hospital instead. But he made the mistake of using public means of transport all the way. On arrival at Mbagathi, he was declared a high-risk person. All symptoms indicated that he had the coronavirus. A positive test was all the confirmation he needed. 

Everyone  from the taxi owner and the house help who had served the tea and who lived in the congested Kibera, to all the passengers in all the public service vehicles he had boarded; the boda boda rider, his elderly parents and his wife and children, and all those he had interacted with in the recent past  were estimated to be more than 1,000.

He had also been in contact with fellow cab drivers at Yaya Centre, petrol station attendants, tea vendors around Dagoretti Corner and two M-Pesa agents over the weekend.

This is how Covid-19 is spreading at community level at the moment. The question to ask is; are you safe?

Do not take any symptoms lightly. Please sanitise and stay at home. If you are a cab driver, a boda boda rider, public service vehicle operator or a medic, be extra vigilant. Stay away from your elderly parents or other relatives at all costs. We need each other once all this is over.