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Strict protocols as schools are set to re-open

Readers Lounge - By Graham Kajilwa and Rosa Agutu
Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe with County Governors at Kenyatta University Teaching, Referral and Research Hospital (Nicholas Nthenge)

Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe has assured the public that Health and Education ministries are working together to ensure strict protocols are observed before re-opening of schools.

During the Covid-19 status briefing on Wednesday 23rd September, Kagwe said the first phase of the re-opening will give learners time to acclimatise with the health protocols in schools before learning starts officially.

“If there are challenges that we are going to face, let’s face them at that stage,” he said.

Proposals to Education Cabinet Secretary, George Magoha by the Education Response Committee on Covid-19 suggest that schools should re-open in phases with learners expected at the institutions between October 5 and 19.

The phases are aimed at ensuring schools learn to manage students while implementing Covid-19 protocols.

Kagwe’s statement comes as Kenya yesterday marked a positivity rate of below 5 per cent after recording 130 new Covid-19 cases out of 3,874 samples tested in 24 hours, bringing the total caseload to 38,348.

“Over the last 21 days, our average has been less than 5 per cent save for one or two days.

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As of today, we have just 484 patients with Covid-19 in all health facilities from 1,200 more than two months ago,” Kagwe said.

The number of recoveries has also risen to 24,253 after 106 patients recovered from the disease in the last 24 hours.

Out of the 106 recoveries, 81 were discharged from various hospitals while 25 were under home-based care.

However, 5 succumbed to the disease raising the number of fatalities to 664.

Innate immunity

Children below the age of 19 have been largely spared by Covid-19 as documented in the latest situational report by the Ministry of Health.

The report, dated September 21, shows only 20 out of the 650 deaths linked to Covid-19 are among individuals aged 19 years and below.

Additionally, of the 37,079 confirmed cases, just 3,147 are from the same age group. These could be some of the promising statistics that the government is banking on to have schools re-open.

From the numbers, it means the positivity rate of children below 19 against the rest of the confirmed cases is 8.4 per cent.

Health Director General Patrick Amoth mentioned that one of the advantages Kenya has against the disease is that over 65 per cent of the population is made of young persons below the age of 35.

The most-affected age group in Kenya in terms of infection is those aged between 30 and 39 with 12,000 cases. For deaths, persons above 60-years account for more with 287.

But while age might have a role in the few cases and deaths among the younger population, a latest study has argued that innate immunity in children makes them dodge the harsh symptoms of the virus.

Compared to adaptive immunity which allows the body to come up with specific antibodies against pathogens, innate immunity works in a general way.

“Our findings suggest that children with Covid-19 do better than adults because their stronger innate immunity protects them against SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes the disease,” said co-senior author Betsy Herold, chief of infectious diseases and vice chair for research in the department of pediatrics at Einstein and CHAM.

The study was conducted by scientists at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

The study, published on September 21 by Science Translation Medicine found that children and youth infected with SARS-CoV-2 have milder disease than adults.

This includes children with multi-system inflammatory syndrome

“The reasons for the differences in clinical manifestations are unknown, but suggest that age-dependent factors may modulate the anti-viral immune response,” reads the study in part.

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