At a construction site in Wote town, Makueni county in Eastern Kenya, four youths work in unison, methodically turning and mixing sand, and cement to prepare mortar.
In this part of the country, temperatures often soar to 30 degrees Celsius and above.
With rivulets of sweat running on his body, Kimanzi Mwania runs his index finger on the face and wipes the sweat.
All this while, his face mask, just like those of his two other colleagues, hangs loosely on the neck.
One of the four men does not have a mask.
“You cannot comfortably wear a mask in this heat, you might suffocate. Besides what virus can survive here in this heat?” poses Mwania before his colleague Alex Kathau interjects.
“There is no way coronavirus can survive in hot temperatures. Just walk around and you will see very few people with their masks on. We only carry them just in case we bump into police,” Kathau said.
True to his assertion, a casual look in the streets of the town reveals that majority of the people have their masks lowered to the chin as they go about their business.
The masks would be properly won if people are seeking services in banks or supermarkets or when they suspect the presence of police.
The narrative that the Covid 19 virus cannot survive in hot and humid regions such as Ukambani that comprises of Makueni, Machakos and Kitui counties is widespread.
The narrative, which is not backed by any science has become the local ‘truth’ and is being passed from matatu termini to marketplaces, all the way to the villages.
In the neighboring Kitui county, Jackson Muvea, a fruit vendor goes about his business at Kitui bus terminus unbothered.
Like many others, his mask is covering only the chin.
Here, majority of his customers are matatu drivers and conductors as well as bodaboda operators. In 10 of these clients, only one or two would have their masks covering the mouth and nose.
“We are yet to see the impact of Covid 19 in our county. The community believes the pandemic cannot hit us hard because the hot weather conditions favor us,” says Muvea.
David Kisinga, a matatu driver who plies the Kitui – Kibwezi route says his customers are never scared of the virus as was the case about a year ago when the first wave hit the country.
During those initial stages, it was a routine to have hand washing points strategically placed at the bus park and travelers would be required to wear their masks properly always while on board.
With time, all these practices have been thrown out of the window as residents resume their normal way of life.
Kisinga the driver thinks he knows why.
“You see nobody can confidently point a finger to the existence of Coronavirus in our county. It is not easy to know who contracted the virus and who did not, we believe our climate gives us an advantage,” the driver says.
“The only time I insist on my customers wearing the masks is only when approaching a police officer roadblock. After this, everybody lowers their masks,” he adds.
It is the same case in Machakos County where Mutisya Musyoka and Titus Munzyu claim that hot temperatures and humidity make people immune to the virus.
“We believe the virus cannot spread during hot weather, maybe during the cold seasons,” Musyoka asserts.
Reverend Simba Mambo of Lutheran Church in Kisasi sub-county says although he preaches strict adherence to the safe practices on prevention of the spread of Coronavirus such as social distancing, wearing of masks and regular hand washing, most of his worshippers have over time lowered their guard.
“It is something you keep on hearing; in marketplaces, gatherings and all over that we are immune because our region experiences hot and dry weather. However, for our church services, we insist on the safe health practices,” Mambo states.
While this belief has gained currency in many parts of Ukambani, there seems to be no scientific proof of the same.
This is an indication that the residents are exposing themselves more to the Covid 19 virus by banking on the advantages of climatic conditions.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) myth busters, the Covid 19 virus can be transmitted in any climate, including in areas with hot and humid conditions.
The sure prevention method is to observe and maintain the laid down health protocols, states WHO.
According to latest findings published in the Science Journal, currently there is no conclusive evidence that either weather or climate have a strong influence on transmission of coronavirus.
Researchers quoted by the journal noted that humans’ current lack of immunity against the virus, and not weather, will likely be a primary factor driving the continued and rapid spread of the novel coronavirus.
“Climate would only become an important seasonal factor in controlling Covid-19 once a large proportion of people within a given community are immune or resistant to infection,” the Journal quotes the scientists as saying.
This finding is enhanced by www.healthline.com where researchers at the University of Texas are quoted saying that the novel coronavirus spreads with about the same efficiency regardless of air temperature and humidity.
“Temperature and humidity is not much of a factor. The effect of weather is low and other features such as mobility have more impact than weather,” Professor Dev Niyogi is quoted saying.
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