Infection and deaths on the rise as Covid-19 ravages central Kenya

Nominated MCA Lucy Njeri, and Kirinyaga Agriculture Executive Member Jackeline Njogu distribute foodstuff and masks to residents at Mutira Settlement Scheme in Kirinyaga Central. [Davy Kirii, Standard]

Central Kenya has been experiencing a spike in Covid-19 infections and deaths, with the healthcare facilities buckling under the demand for ICU and isolation wards.

Experts predict that the situation will only worsen due to a high elderly population, cold weather and the high prevalence of non-communicable diseases in the region.

According to the August 22 Covid-19 national report, Kiambu County had the fourth-highest cases in the country and the highest in Central at 42, followed by Murang’a with 18, and Nyeri with 14.

Njeri Gathoni, a Nyeri resident who has survived a Covid-19 attack, now fears leaving her house.

She wrote on social media, “I don’t want to travel. I don’t want to buy anything in the supermarkets. I don’t want to meet anybody. I just want to be safe.

“Covid-19 in Nyeri is like waru (potato) in our every meal. Homes are mourning. I once had this cold that scared me so much. I don’t want to go through that again.”

The deaths have become so common that coffin maker Peter Munene, who operates near the county referral hospital, says, “I cannot keep up with the orders, you sell a coffin to one family and barely a week later, they come for another. It’s too much.”

Stephen Githaiga, another coffin maker, says, “It is a bittersweet situation, while my business is making money, seeing families in agony is distressing. As a human being, you feel sympathetic.”

Patients who survive the virus are placed under home-based care due to the increased hospital admissions.

Highest cases

August started with Nyeri reporting high Covid-19 numbers, with August 11 recording the highest cases at 128.

According to Nyeri County Covid-19 Surveillance Situational Report, in August there were 130 patients admitted to the various isolation facilities across the county.

Out of these, 65 are on supplemental oxygen and there is 85 per cent occupancy rate in various health facilities.

The data indicates the cumulative deaths reported in the county since June 2020 are 186, with the month of April 2021 recording the highest fatalities at 48.

In August, at least 30 Covid-19 deaths have been reported in Nyeri Sub-county.

Experts predict that the situation will only worsen due to a large elderly population and the cold weather. [Jenipher Wachie, Standard]

In Kirinyaga County, 16 Covid-19 patients are on oxygen at various health facilities, most of which are overwhelmed, with Kerugoya isolation centre full to capacity.

“We have opened isolation centres in other health facilities like Kimbimbi, Baricho, Sagana and Kianyaga,” said Governor Anne Waiguru.

County Commissioner Jim Njoka says, “We are in a crisis, Kirinyaga has so far recorded the highest number of Covid-19 infections, we are banning all meetings,” said Njoka, who shut down Gathoge Police Station for 10 days.

Murang’a County has also recorded high infection rates, with Kiharu leading with 34 deaths, followed by Maragua with 14 and Kigumo with seven.

Responding well

County Covid-19 surveillance team has called for enforcement of protocols, as the 35 ICU beds are overstretched with patients from all over the country.

Health Executive Joseph Mbai described the situation as “scary”. He said the county government has embarked on fumigating public places in efforts to stop the spread of the disease.

Mbai said out of the 42 samples collected in the last 24 hours, 21 tested positive and 15 are undergoing treatment in the ICU.

“We have 212 people under home-based care and they are responding well to treatment,” he said.

At least three counties in central Kenya have set up oxygen plants in their referral and level 4 hospitals in an effort to meet increasing demand for the commodity.

Nyeri, Murang’a and Meru have oxygen plants, which will benefit patients even after the Covid-19 pandemic is over.

The oxygen plants in Nyeri County have been set up at Mt Kenya and Karatina level 4 hospitals, as part of a Sh125 million project.

In addition, Nyeri County also gets oxygen from reserves in private health facilities, including Outspan Hospital and Kenyatta Hospital-Othaya Annex, which serves the larger Mt Kenya region and has a big oxygen plant.

[Additional reporting by Boniface Gikandi and Jane Mugambi]