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WHO raises red flag over Kenya’s rising Covid cases

By People Reporter
Thursday, July 30th, 2020
A young resident of Biafra in Eastleigh South, Nairobi, undergoes a nose swab by an health. Photo/PD/John Ochieng
In summary
    • In a confidential letter to Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe dated July 22 and signed by the WHO representative to Kenya, Dr Rudi Eggers, the global health body has raised a red flag over the rising infections and deaths from the pandemic, saying it was an indication of widespread community transmissions in several counties.

The rapid surge in the number of coronavirus infections and deaths in the country has drawn the attention of the World Health Organisation (WHO), which is now warning of widespread community transmissions if urgent measures are not taken.

In a confidential letter to Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe dated July 22 and signed by the WHO representative to Kenya, Dr Rudi Eggers, the global health body has raised a red flag over the rising infections and deaths from the pandemic, saying it was an indication of widespread community transmissions in several counties.

The warning came as Kenya yesterday recorded 544 more infections to bring the total to 19,125, as 12 more people succumbed to the virus, bringing the death toll to 311.

In the letter, WHO particularly singled out Kenyan politicians and senior government officials for brazenly flouting Health ministry Covid-19 protocols.

The global health body says despite the government’s ban on public gatherings, politicians and senior government personalities had failed to live by example and were instead palpably ignoring safety guidelines.

“WHO would like to see the Government of Kenya, have all leaders at all levels of government and society and all politicians lead by example by assuring that they visibly demonstrate their personal compliance to the government directives,” says the letter.

The letter was written two days before President Uhuru Kenyatta hosted governors to discuss the counties’ preparedness to handle the pandemic.

It warns that gains made by the Kenya government in the fight against the pandemic could be eroded by the conduct of politicians and government officers flouting health regulations.

The government was also criticised over the manner in which it is enforcing the Covid-19 protocols and failure to fully protect health workers.

Eggers urges the government to strictly enforce the way masks are worn by Kenyans, claiming that majority of the population was wearing them wrongly.

He also called on the government to limit the number of people travelling in public transport vehicles at any given time.

Public transport

“Reinforce limitations of persons within public transport vehicles, as the close environment and the close personal space within a public service vehicle.

The regular sanitising of the interior of the vehicle as well as the provision of hand sanitisers on entering the PSV vehicle mandated by the government must be enforced,” Eggers warned.

On health and other frontline workers, WHO appeals to the government to offer them maximum protection by providing them with adequate and timely personal protective equipment (PPEs) and proper training in infection protection and control.

“Health workers that fall ill to Covid-19 require dedicated medical attention and care in designated care facilities for health workers,” WHO states in an almost similar manner in which the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) has been agitating.

So far, Kenya has lost one doctor to the disease while over 600 medical workers including nurses and clinical officers have been infected.

Other measures cited by WHO include the need to improve on reporting and analysis of direct and indirect Covid-19 deaths to determine the public health impact of the pandemic in Kenya; reinforcement of contact tracing with adequate staff and resources; and increase of laboratory testing of suspected Covid-19 cases and timely reporting of results.

“In addition, finalise integrated digital information management platforms, and build health workers’ capacity to generate and use data for decision-making and availing resources to facilitate data collection at all levels of Covid-19 response (smartphones, internet connection, staffing to data activities),” Eggers urges.

WHO also demanded that the government releases funds to counties to reach the frontlines of the response.

The funds, according to the global body, will enable counties to purchase equipment for health workers and rapid response teams.

Key requirements

“Funds should be released immediately for operational costs (such as fuel) for those investigating the disease occurrences and contacts and equipping of health facilities with key requirements such as oxygen, high-care beds and effective waste management,” the letter adds.

It also advises the government to direct correct information and financial resources in the hands of social mobilisers and informers at the grassroots level to disseminate basic messages to counter fake and misleading information about the disease.

“Intensify communication and community engagement, involving community and religious leaders, to mobilise communities to willingly implement and sustain correct information of the prevention measures,” it urges the government.

The WHO warning comes in the wake of concerns by the Kenyan public over the apparent existence of two sets of laws in the fight against Covid-19…..one for the high and mighty who are treated with kid gloves and the other for wananchi who are hauled to court for the slightest misdemeanour.

On Monday, while announcing the latest containment measures on the disease, President Kenyatta instructed the Inspector General of Police to spare nobody while enforcing the law.

And yesterday, Health CS Kagwe accused some politicians, high ranking government officials and professionals of living a lie by flouting the same laws they are expected to help enforce.

Kagwe cited two cases involving doctors who continued to carry out their duties despite knowing they posed a danger to society due to their conditions.

Rogue doctor

One doctor at Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH), who was supposed to have gone into quarantine after arriving back in the country, had to be stopped by nurses from going into theatre to conduct a surgery.  

The second doctor, despite having tested positive for the virus, was stopped at the doorsteps of a theatre where he intended to carry out a delicate operation.

On the other hand, political leaders and some government officials have thrown the Covid-19 safety guidelines out of the window even as the government invests resources in public campaigns to encourage people to keep the mandatory one-metre distance.

Many have been traversing the country, addressing huge gatherings in the guise of espousing political and government policies.

A week ago, Nairobi Senator Johnston Sakaja was forced to resign as chairman of the parliamentary Ad Hoc Committee on Covid-19 after he was arrested in a drinking joint.

And yesterday, Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho hosted a dozen politicians during the opening of Shika Adabu retail market in Likoni where hundreds of residents gathered to listen to their speeches.

 “Continue to enforce the restrictions of gathering of people for political, social or entertainment reasons.

This includes, social gatherings such as parties, weddings, funerals and the like,” WHO urged the government.

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