At least five counties are facing fresh lockdowns to curb the spread of Covid-19, a local publication has established.
The Covid-19 National Emergency Response Committee (NERC) has fingered Nairobi, Mombasa, Kericho, Nakuru and Turkana as virus hotspots, setting them up for lockdown to avoid overwhelming the ill-equipped hospitals especially in rural counties.
Kenya’s infection curve has taken a sharp turn, recording over 4,500 new cases in the past one month, with the daily average of the past seven days nearing 400 compared to 164 in the week to September 30 when President Kenyatta announced easing of containment measures across the country.
“Experts are convinced that Nakuru, Turkana and Kericho must be placed on stricter measures, while they are still debating on whether to have Nairobi and Mombasa back on these lockdowns,” a person familiar with deliberations of the NERC said.
A fresh lockdown could hit the economy hard and cost the jobs of thousands of workers.
As at Monday, 39 people were admitted to intensive care units (ICUs) across the country, with a further 1,084 to various hospitals, Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe said.
The death toll has climbed to 839, with reported cases hitting 45,076.
Council of Governors chairman Kakamega County boss Wycliffe Oparanya yesterday asked Health ministry to come up with tougher measures to contain the spread of the highly infectious virus.
Governor Oparanya said the measures should seek to control public gatherings such as rallies and funerals, and review the government’s decision to reopen bars.
“The government needs to come up with serious measures to ensure that politicians who are now having political meetings are checked because they have really contributed to this spread,” Mr Oparanya said.
“If the current surge in infections continues, it will be difficult to contain the situation if the Ministry of Health does not come up with tough regulations to deal with the situation,” he added.
Governors have planned a meeting in Mombasa on Thursday and Friday to discuss challenges the devolved units are facing in tackling the current wave of infections and draft recommendations on the way forward. The country’s positivity rate has tripled in the past month, coupled with a steady rise in hospital admissions.
The Covid-19 Response Committee, which met on Sunday, discussed the possibility of having selected counties under new restriction measures, but a firm decision could be made in the next meeting in two-days’ time, on Thursday.
CS Kagwe on Sunday said Kenyans should brace themselves for fresh containment measures, warning of a “potential crisis”.
“Today, at a 12 per cent incline and a daily rise in deaths, we can confidently point to a potential crisis unless we take some immediate action to avert this. We can choose to sink or swim,” he said, adding that the country was headed for ‘tough times ahead’.
Barely a month ago, President Kenyatta relaxed some of the lockdown measures, but warned that the Covid-19 situation remained fluid, terming it a ‘season of paradoxes’.
“As we flatten the corona curve, it appears like victory is in sight. Yet in these achievements are a paradox in themselves. I say so because the greatest danger is always at that moment of victory. In fact, experience has taught us that we’re most vulnerable and fragile now we think we have won,” President Kenyatta said. He warned of reinstating tougher restrictions, should need arise.
Kenya has seen a steep rise in the number of Covid-19 cases in the past three weeks, partly fuelled by political rallies that have seen thousands of attendees flouting every laid down health protocol.
The Health Chief Administrative Secretary, Dr Rashid Aman, yesterday said that action must be taken to curb the rising numbers.
“If the numbers reach to a dangerous point, something will have to be done,” he said.
“If Kenyans fail to adhere to protocols, then we will have to issue restrictions and enforce them. Unfortunately, going by the current trend, we may be forced to take stern measures to protect people from disease and death,” he added.
Flattened the curve
The Head of Infectious Diseases Unit at Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH), Dr Loice Ombajo, said the country flattened the curve in July and August, but this is changing. The number of new patients in need of hospital admission indicates a worrying trend,” she added.
The number of people sick enough to need admission is going up, she said. “This trend has been noted even in counties that have previously recorded low numbers,” she said, blaming it on Kenyans’ casual attitude towards the pandemic for the obtaining scenario.
“The tendency by politicians to hold large rallies is also driving the abandonment of safety precautions among the citizens. Who controls the political rallies? Amid such a critical public health threat, why should you have a rally with hundreds of people shouting, singing, and standing close to each other? Someone should crack a whip on the rallies,” Dr Ombajo said.
She also hinted that the government could be forced to close schools in case of a wave of new infections. “We’re open to the idea of closing schools if the numbers go up,” she said.
Dr Marybeth Maritim, an infectious diseases expert at the University of Nairobi, said the virus is spreading fast in rural areas where no one observes the issued public health measures.
“Research has shown that countries that enforced strict adherence to these Covid-19 guidelines were able to contain the rate of transmission. There is no treatment for Covid-19, there is no vaccine; this is a matter of personal responsibility. It all goes back to the public health measures, we are going back to the roots,” she said.
Dr Ahmed Kalebi, the Chief Executive Officer of Lancet Kenya, noted that the organisation has witnessed a surge in Covid-19 cases at its laboratories.
“The numbers have gone up, it is a bushfire that will be hard to control. It was a mistake to relax the containment measures,” he said, adding that Kenya is deep into the second wave of the pandemic.
The expert said that, while the Health ministry has been announcing figures of new infections every day, the data may not be painting the real picture because Covid-19 test results are delayed from sample collection, testing, to uploading the data in the system. This may mislead the actions being taken to contain the disease and the pandemic in the country.
Uploading the data
“There is a gap between the time the samples are collected and tested and the time of uploading the data. On average, data is delayed for between one to two weeks before it is announced to the public.
“The picture is not reflecting the current situation and what we are seeing is what we should have seen three weeks ago,” he said.