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Prepare for surge of Corona infections, Kenyans warned

By People Team
Friday, May 22nd, 2020
Acting Health Director-General Patrick Amoth speaks during the Covid-19 daily update at Afya House in Nairobi yesterday. Photo/PD/GERALD ITHANA

Murimi Mutiga and Harrison Kivisu

The true picture of the spread of coronavirus infections is quickly emerging following enhanced mass testing, with the Ministry of Health (MoH) warning of an expected surge in numbers of between 200 and 300 cases a day in the months of August and September.

Fresh projections come at a time when Kenyans are putting pressure on the government to ease some of the containment measures put in place to check spread of the deadly pandemic.

Figures released yesterday showed the country recorded 80 new infections, bringing the total number of cases to 1,109.

Yesterday’s was the highest number of infections reported in the country in a single day since the first case was announced on March 13.

During the daily media briefings yesterday, Acting Director General of Health Patrick Amoth said Kenyans should not be surprised by the spike in the number of new infections.

Amoth, who assured that the country’s health system had not been overrun by the disease, clarified that the projections would keep on changing based on different variables.

“The numbers keep on increasing because we have increased our testing capacity. We shall continue to implement these measures, especially avoiding of gatherings and observing social distance,” he said.

In the last one week, the government has ramped up its testing capacity, a move that has resulted in a spike in the Covid-19 positive cases.

The details were released even as unconfirmed reports indicated that a prominent former Nairobi MP had been taken ill and hospitalised for suspected coronavirus infection after she and eight other persons out of the 18 she had hosted in her house were diagonised with the virus. 

Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe said the new trend demonstrated that “the larger the sample size, the bigger the number of positive cases”.

Largest sample

With a cumulative sample of 52,507 having been tested so far tested since the first case was reported, it appears that Kenyans could be in for a long battle with the virus which has devastated the country’s economy, leaving thousands of Kenyans without jobs.

“It is worrying that this trend is continuing; we have recorded the highest number yet again at 80 from a sample size of 3,102. This is the largest sample size tested so far,” Kagwe said.

Kagwe said the country had increased its testing capacity by 40 per cent in the last two weeks, warning that more efforts must be put in place to curb the spread of the disease.

“Over the past two weeks we have increased testing capacity by more than over 40 per cent and we intend to continue with this escalation.

We, therefore, would like to encourage the public and the medics to be alive to these symptoms,” said Kagwe.

He spoke hours after holding a meeting with the Council of Governors and clerics who have been pushing for the reopening of places of worship.

The spike in infections is likely to complicate the situation for the government as it considers petitions from various sectors to ease restrictions which have had a serious impact on businesses and led to widespread layoffs of workers.

Religious leaders

The restrictions include a countrywide dusk-to-dawn curfew, ban of movement in and outside Nairobi, Mombasa, Kilifi, Kwale and Mandera counties, and lockdown of Eastleigh and Old Town in Mombasa.

Leaders from religious organisations, among them churches and mosques, traders and education stakeholders are piling pressure for the lifting of the ban on gatherings, cessation of movement and the curfew.

It now appears that the trend in infections in the next two weeks will determine whether the restrictions will be lifted or extended.

Kagwe, who met the spiritual leaders to address emerging issues from the Covid-19 pandemic, among them rising domestic violence and financial distress, said the government would work with religious leaders to help reduce the impact of the disease.

“At a time when we feel that the cases that we are getting are discouraging, allow us not to change the protocols that we have developed.

It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as you are intending to bring people together at this point in time,” he said.

He asked the clerics to continue with offering virtual services to avoid exposing the faithful to the virus.

Of the new cases reported yesterday, 41 are from Nairobi, while 20 are from Mombasa. The youngest new Covid-19 case is a six-month-old baby.

Nairobi’s Westlands area had nine cases, Kibera registered 13, Langata (five), Ruaraka (three) while Embakasi West, Kasarani, Starehe, and Dagoreti North had two cases each.

In Mombasa, Mvita had six, Jomvu (five), Likoni (four), Changwamwe (three) and Kisauni (two).

Kagwe said 77 of the new infections wereKenyans while three were Somali nationals.

This came as unconfirmed reports indicated a former MP had been admitted to hospital with the disease. 

The legislator, who is said to have turned positive with eight other people with whom they had held a meeting, had reportedly been put on oxygen.

Border testing

Infections in Siaya county have risen to seven, with the first case being traced to a man who travelled for a burial from Kibera in Nairobi with fake documents.

“The Siaya story is a sad one because the departure point of the case is in Kibera. Somebody in Kibera without authority authorised someone to travel, signed a document that was respected by police, taking mourners all the way to Siaya. The mourners themselves were positive before they were traced,” said Kagwe.

He asked Nyumba Kumi officials to identify visitors in their areas so that people who have travelled from elsewhere can be traced.

Another 40 people tested positive for the virus at the border before entering the country, among them 39 Tanzanians and one Burundian. They were tested at Namanga (25), Lunga Lunga (six), Taveta (five), and Isebania (four).

“They were all referred back to Tanzania,” the CS said.

New symptoms

On a positive note, nine more Covid-19 patients were discharged, bringing the total of those who have recovered to 375.

The CS said the government was keenly monitoring happenings in other countries experiencing a reemergence of the cases after they had successfully contained the virus. 

The countries include Lebanon, Iran South Korea, Germany, China and Ghana who are now enforcing new measures.

The government also warned that as the virus continued to spread, there were new trends globally that the infected persons are exhibiting new less typical non-respiratory symptoms such as sudden strokes and multi-system inflammatory symptoms.

“These cases have largely been confined to United States, UK, France, Italy and Spain and so far not witnessed in Kenya.

We nonetheless need to be cognisant of them because in each of these cases tested for antibodies the results were positive, which indicates that the patient had been exposed to Covid-19,” said Kagwe.