Nearly 2 million Kenyans could be infected with coronavirus, including 100,000 critical cases, by January 2021, Kenya Aids Vaccine Initiative (KAVI) Director Prof Omu Anzala projected on Thursday.
Prof Anzala gave the projections during a virtual meeting with the Senate Ad Hoc Committee on COVID-19.
The KAVI director noted that lifting existing restrictions including the dusk-to-dawn curfew and the cessation of movement in and out of Nairobi, Mombasa, Mandera, Kwale and Kilifi could result in a surge in new infection.
Prof Anzala attributed the projections to the reality that a majority of Kenyans are asymptomatic – show no symptoms of the disease.
He noted that out of the projected 2 million cases, those who will exhibit moderate symptoms will average about 300,000 with those exhibiting severe symptoms projected to be 100,000.
Worst case scenario, Anzala said that 41 million Kenyans could be infected over the period between March 2020 to January 2021.
“The Ministry of Health should ensure that adequate measures are put in place so that the threat of the disease can be minimized as much as possible,” he said.
“Unless the virus mutates and its threat become minimal, definitely these peaks are going to come because of the contagious nature of these viruses,” he said.
Prof Anzala noted that the peak in health care utilization will occur around February 2021 with up to 356,000 hospital beds and 115,000 ventilators required at the time.
Director Ministry of Health Dr. Patrick Amoth had in a previous briefing also projected that the country’s peak is expected to be in August and September this year.
The government is already considering listing most restrictions to avert the deepening of a pandemic-triggered economic meltdown.
President Uhuru Kenyatta last week hinted that his administration was weighing available options in a bid to jump start the economy that has received a major beating since the first case of infection was reported in March with GDP growth projected to slow to 2.3 per cent.
He cautioned that the low mortality rate associated to the virus should not be used as a parameter to weigh the virus’s impact in the country and called for a more strategic approach from the government.
“This disease is not like malaria and decisions to re-open the economy or not should be scientific based,” Prof Anzala.
Kenya has so far registered 1,471 COVID-19 cases with the number of deaths associated to the virus standing at 55.
“Nairobi, Kiambu, Meru, Machakos, Nakuru and Kakamega will consume up to 30% of the national resource requirements for treatment of severe cases,” he said.
Pof Anzala remarks were reinforced by the Kenya Medical Association Vice President Lukoye Atwoli who cautioned that a hasty re-opening of the economy would be disastrous owing to the soaring number of infection cases being reported by the Ministry of Health.
“The risk of announcing that the economy has been opened up is that you reduce people’s perception of the risk and once you reduce the perception of the risk, you do not know how far that will go,” he said.
He stressed that the government should enhance its surveillance in monitoring the number of deaths that are linked to COVID-19 after it emerged that some Kenyans might be dying at their homes.
“It is early days yet to start saying that people are not dying. We do not want people to start dropping like flies. Based on our projections we are recommending interventions that would prevent those worst-case scenarios from happening,” he said.
Lancet Group of Laboratories Managing Director Ahmed Kalebi who was also part of the meeting noted that the government should focus on containing the virus in areas deemed to be hotspots.
“COVID-19 is here to stay we just have to learn how to live with it and if you think about the infections that the country received in the early stages were imported but the government should now manage the hotspots like Nairobi and Mombasa which is as good as Italy,” he said.
The debate on the re-opening of schools also dominated the meeting with the medical practitioners warning that it would amount to a catastrophe.
Committee Chair Johnson Sakaja asked the Ministry of Education to be realistic prior to considering the option insisting that children risk being the fastest spreaders of the virus if they will be allowed to resume to school.
“There is no education that is going on this year if we are to call a spade a spade,” he said.