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Inadequate Planning, Data Posing Threats to Kenya’s Covid-19 Strategy

Covid-19 was first confirmed in Wuhan, China, on December 31, 2019 and in Kenya on March 13, 2020. The first peak of the coronavirus infections was on July 26, 2020, when 960 cases were recorded, alongside two deaths and a seven-day average of seven deaths. The second peak was on November 27, 2020, when 1,554 cases and 14 deaths were recorded, with a seven-day average of 13 deaths.

As of May 18 2021, total confirmed positive cases are now 165,537 and cumulative tests so far conducted are 1,746,449. Countries across the world are vaccinating their populations while other, such as India, are also facing new rising infections due to deadlier variants of the coronavirus. India is experiencing the world’s worst outbreak, with new cases surging past 400,000 per day in the middle of a Covid-19 catastrophe while facing a second wave of cases.

Africa has not suffered as badly from the pandemic as other parts of the world, but the African Union’s disease control agency warned the continent’s governments and citizens not to let their guards down. According to Centers for Disease Control Covid-19 report, Kenyan Covid-19 death rate has increased by two per cent in the last four weeks, placing the country at number two, coming after Egypt which reported a 12 per cent increase.

Health workers personal protective equipment (PPE) record the details of residents, as they stand at social distance to each other, during aTrack and trace: A Covid-19 testing drive at Olympic Primary School in Nairobi, Kenya, on Tuesday, on May 26, 2020.

Meanwhile, the Kenyan health ministry has imposed Covid-19 rapid testing kits at the points of entry and will enhance surveillance to detect new virulent variants or strains of the deadly virus. In March an attempts to flatten a third wave of coronavirus infections. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta  introduced a curfew from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m.On May 1, President Kenyatta lifted the COVID-19 lockdown, allowing for a reopening of bars and restaurants, religious services and schools as the rate of infection eases.

As the third Covid-19 wave gains momentum in Africa, there are delivery issues, vaccine scepticism, a sense of vaccine nationalism, logistical problems and in some cases, vaccine doses actually end up being discarded. Kenyan citizens have growing reservations about the safety and efficacy of the vaccine.

An unidentified doctor in Kenya said: “I’m not an anti-vaxxer… I have my children vaccinated up to date with everything out there, but this one? I’m not comfortable,” “If there is no data on long-term effects, then we are all being guinea pigs. What happens in 10 years after this vaccine?”, he told Reuters News Agency.

However, other African countries might also run into problems administering the vaccines, particularly in rural regions. And those few who were lucky to get the first dose might not get their second shot in a while. On 4 May 2021 the government said it had administered jabs to 887,000 people, two months into its Covid-19 vaccination campaign. But on 24 April, the health ministry said the second dose of the vaccine would be delayed due to shortages. The period between doses would now be 12 weeks, not eight. Kenyans who received the first dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine donated by the global COVAX initiative in March 2021, will get the second in June. COVAX aims to deliver 600 million shots to Africa this year that would be enough to vaccinate roughly 20% of the population. Similarly, the Indian government donated another 100,000 shots.

A health worker receives the jab at Marimanti Sub-County Hospital. Photo: Alex Njeru/ Nation Media Group.

The Kenyan government is targeting 1.25 million front-line workers, including health workers, security personnel, clergy members, as well as teachers, and others working in education. On March 2021, at least three counties have no functional ICU and Covid-19 isolation centres, with most of these facilities in “prepared regions” being in a poor state, dysfunctional, or are lacking staff. A spot check at private hospitals, including the Aga Khan and Nairobi hospitals, the report reveals that only a few beds remain. By March 16, 2021, 709 patients were admitted to various hospitals, among them 104 patients in the ICU, 25 on ventilatory oxygen and 70 on supplemental oxygen, according to the report.

Amid rising Covid-19 infections and deaths in some counties, Kenyan capital city, Nairobi is already experiencing bed shortages. The county, continues to bear the biggest burden of Covid-19 infections, recording 247 deaths between January and April alone, the majority of the victims being men. The city has recorded 931 deaths since last March, when Kenya confirmed its first case of the disease, according to the Nairobi Covid-19 pandemic data outlook report, by the Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS). Experts have warned of another Covid-19 spike in July as the country continues to record more cases of the deadly India variant. The government has suspended passenger flights between Kenya and the Asian country following a surge in Covid-19 infections there. Travellers must undergo 14-day mandatory quarantine upon arrival. All arrivals are supposed to fill in the Covid-19 health surveillance form available online.

A Ministry of Health official fumigates a Nairobi street as part of measures to combat coronavirus. Photo: Moses Muoki/Capital FM.

Moreover, more intensive care unit (ICU) beds numbering 6,345 are now available across the country, an increase of 313 “as a result of patients who have recovered from Covid-19”, according to the Council of Governors chairperson Martin Wambora; compared to 492 ICU beds identified nationally in a report published in October 2020 by the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Council. While the Covid-19 country preparedness and response performance report also identified 13,000 isolation beds.

The Football Kenya Federation Premier League has returned in line with the set Ministry of Health and Ministry of Sports and Culture COVID-19 protocols in place to allow the resumption of the league. League matches were suspended in March 26 due to the rise in Covid-19 infections in the country, due to a rise in the number of coronavirus causes. Measures in the guidelines include fumigation of the pitch at intervals before, during and after a match, and all games will still be played behind closed doors. While partial data by sex poses a great difficulty in developing, overseeing and execution of efficient COVID-19 state responses. Health expert urged Kenyan authorities to publish accurate data in order to bend the curve.

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