Covid-19: State says no restrictions to be imposed despite rising cases

Health CS Mutahi Kagwe. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

Ministry of Health will not reinstate Covid-19 restriction measures despite the fact that Kenya is recording a sharp increase in positive coronavirus cases.

The acting Director-General for Health, Dr Patrick Amoth on Sunday said reinstating restriction measures will be the last option and will be informed by science. 

The Health CS Mutahi Kagwe announced the relaxation of Covid-19 containment measures in March.

Data from the ministry reveal a surge of infections in the last month, with fears of a spike likely to be caused by heightened political campaigns.

At least 2,494 new Covid-19 cases have been reported from May 22 to June 11, with a gradual increase in the positivity rate.

On Saturday, the Health ministry announced the highest positivity rate of 9.9 per cent, with 288 people testing positive out of 3,696 samples.

As per the data, the age bracket of 30 to 39 is the most affected and of the 288 cases, 83 were of that age bracket.

Nairobi County was leading with 193 cases, followed by Kiambu with 41, with Nakuru, Mombasa, Murang’a, Kisumu, Uasin Gishu, Kilifi recording 41, 22, 10, 6, 5, 4 and 2 cases respectively.

“Despite a surge in the number of cases, the number of people admitted to hospitals and fatalities has not increased since the beginning of the year,” Amoth told The Standard. "Based on this, it is unlikely that we are going to impose any stringent measures."

Amoth said the pandemic has affected economic growth, nationally and globally, and placing restrictive measures will hurt the economy more.

He gave the example of the World Bank report that estimated a decrease of global economic growth from 5.7 per cent to 2.7 per cent, and a rate of inflation that has never been documented since the 1970s.

But he maintained that if the situation gets worse, the Health ministry will bring the measures on board.

“We are talking of stagnation in economic growth and at the same time inflation, which is something that we have not seen since the 1970s, how do we impose such measures, knowing very well the devastating effects of the pandemic on our economic front?” he posed.  

Since the outbreak of the pandemic in March 2020, 326,737 tests have been conducted and 5,651 deaths recorded.

Amoth said the surge might be due to the waning of vaccinations, in terms of immunity of the vaccines and natural infections.

Other contributors might be the cold weather and political activities where Kenyans gather in large numbers without wearing masks. He also said it is possible that Kenya is dealing with a new variant of the virus.

Scientists drawn from Kemri Wellcome, Nairobi, Kisumu and International Livestock Research, under the One House Care approach, have since embarked on sequencing, following the surge in cases.

According to a study released on March 16 by Kemri Wellcome Trust, Kenya has at least 143 distinct SARS-CoV-2 lineages, with Omicron being the most dominant variant.

“Sequencing is underway to tell whether it is omicron variant that is in circulation, and causing a surge in cases, or it immunity decrease, because people have not taken the booster shot,” Amoth said.

Prof Julius Oyugi, director of research at the University of Nairobi's Institute of Tropical and Infectious Diseases, said one of the drivers of a surge in infections is the emergence of new variants.

“Vaccine uptake has been low from February since the cases started declining," Amoth said. "But the ministry is ramping up a campaign launched in Nairobi and which will be rolled out in all counties.” 

As of Saturday, 18,432,071 vaccines had been administered, with only 361,779 doses of booster shots. 

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