Kenya in the woods yet as more Covid-19 variants possible

More Covid-19 variants could be recorded in Kenya in the coming days, Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe has said.

Already, cases of people infected with the Indian variant has risen to eight.

The initial announcement indicated they were five, all in Kisumu County.

In what appears to be an attempt to brush off criticism of the government’s handling of the recent entry of the 5 infected Indian expatriates, the CS insists that the possibility of more variants coming into Kenya remains.

In a press briefing at the Mwai Kibaki Referral Hospital Friday, the CS said the arrival of variants in the country was inevitable, as long as the borders were open to travellers.

“We will be required to be vigilant so as to avoid infection. We should be prepared to fight against other variants apart from the ones that have already been identified locally,” said the CS.

The government has come under fire from Kenyans over its handling of the latest Indian Covid-19 variant that has led to over 200,000 deaths in the last one month in India.

Kenya’s current predicament is a repeat of events around the declaration of the first Covid-19 case, which occurred amidst reports of the government allowing Chinese nationals to enter the country.

This casual attitude towards the disease persisted even as the world continued to reverberate with the news of the rapidly spreading viral infection that had originated in Wuhan, China.

A section of Kenyans feel that Wednesday’s announcement coupled with a confirmation that the infected people were from India displayed the government’s determination to allow foreigners into the country, including those from Covid-19 disaster zones.

Mr Kagwe carefully avoided mentioning the circumstances under which the country continued to allow flights from India to land in Kenya.

“There is no way that we can stop the new variants from entering the country unless we completely close our borders, which is not possible given the current circumstances,” added Mr Kagwe.

He said that the only solution for Kenyans was to practice the recommended preventive measures to avoid infection.

“No country in the world has chosen the total lockdown option in order to stop the spread of the variants. In order to be safe, we must practice social distancing, wear masks, wash hands and adhere to proper cough hygiene,” Mr Kagwe said.

He said the current dominant variant circulating in the country was the British variant.

He added that there were several other variants in circulation.

“The current dominant variant in the country is the British variant, which is not the one we started with when the first case of Covid-19 was diagnosed locally. This variant is not the only one, as there are others in circulation, with more expected to come in,” he said.

Mr Kagwe also alluded to the possibility of more cases of the Indian variant in the country.

As at December 2020, Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) researchers had confirmed at least 16 circulating Covid-19 variants in the country.

Mr Kagwe spoke during the handover of an Astra Zeneca nebulizer to the health facility.

The equipment will be used in the treatment of asthmatic patients.

According to Public Health boss Dr Francis Kuria, the infected Indians had travelled from their country to repair an equipment at the Kibos Sugar Factory in Kisumu County.

“ These were normal factory workers hired to fix some equipment at the Kibos Factory. They had travelled here some time before we stopped flights from India to Kenya,” said Dr Kuria.

He revealed that the immigrant workers fell sick some time after their arrival in Kisumu, prompting the management to get them tested for Covid-19.

“A few days after their arrival some of them felt unwell and the management decided to have them tested. The management notified the Kisumu County Covid-19 surveillance team which collected the samples. The workers’ samples were then forwarded to the Centres for Disease Control (CDC) labs in Kisumu,” said Dr Kuria.

The public health boss lauded the factory management for the move to contact the county surveillance team. He confirmed that the Indian variant cases had risen to eight.

“We commend the management for taking the initiative to conduct the testing of the workers. It was these tests that revealed that 68 were positive, after which the CDC identified the 5 cases,” he said.

Dr Kuria said the national government swiftly moved to contain the situation after receiving the reports of the Indian variant.

“When we received the reports on the confirmed cases, we reached out to the factory management and the county surveillance team, locked down the factory and embarked on a series of more tests, during which the cases rose to eight,” said the public health boss.

‘We isolated the positive cases and subjected those who had turned out negative to more tests. Out of the 50 that turned negative, another eight turned positive,” added Dr Kuria.

He reassured the public that the government was still engaged in contract tracing in an effort to ensure that the spread of the Indian variant is contained.

“Contract tracing is ongoing in an effort to identify, test and treat other cases in the surrounding area.We want to try as much as possible to ensure that the spread of the variant,” he said.

By Friday, Kenya’s positivity rate stood at 6.3 percent, with 568 people testing positive from 9,069 samples tested.

The country’s cumulative Covid-19 cases are 162,666, from a total of 1,710, 414 tests carried out. A total of 2,865 people have died from the viral disease, with 110,653 recovering.

Recoveries that were achieved under home based care are 80,316, while those at medical facilities are 30,337.

So far, 911,515 Kenyans have been vaccinated against Covid-19 countrywide. Out of these, 531,540 are aged 58 years and above.

Health workers that have gotten the jab are 160,468, in addition to 76,578 security officers and 142,624 teachers.

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