CS Kagwe hints at decision government likely to make on facemasks

HealthCS Mutahi Kagwe suspects Kenyans have developed herd immunity against Covid-19. [Samson Wire, Standard].

Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe has hinted that the government is contemplating relaxing rules on mandatory facemask wearing.

The minister said a review of the rules will be done and communicated soon.

Kagwe told Citizen Television on Wednesday, March 9 that the number of new Covid-19 infections in the country continues to remain low despite many Kenyans “not wearing facemasks in public”.

The CS suspects Kenyans have developed herd immunity against Covid-19.

Herd immunity occurs when a large portion of a community (the herd) becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely.

For more than a month now, the average Covid-19 positivity rate has remained below 5 per cent.

Previously, the World Health Organization (WHO) advised governments that, before reopening, rates of positivity in testing should remain at 5 per cent or lower for at least 14 days.

“I have noticed many people are not wearing facemasks [in public] these days. The ministry has been watching to see what happens next. Maybe we are [as a country] developing immunity against Covid-19. That explains why we are not hard on people [despite them flouting the facemask rules],” Kagwe said in a 9pm news report.

“If people are not getting sick [as a result of failure to wear facemasks in public], then maybe, as a government, we should take that direction (doing away with laws on mandatory facemask wearing),” said the Cabinet Secretary.

Kagwe, however, said before the government lifts the containment rules, the Ministry of Health will do adequate research to avert a surge in Covid-19 infections.

The Acting Director-General for Health, Dr Patrick Amoth, said Kenya’s vaccination programme appears to have had the desired outcome, as Covid-19 infections and new deaths countrywide remain low.

“The reduced number of infections and mortality is an indication that the country is in control,” Dr Amoth told The Standard.

“People should, however, keep wearing facemasks, especially if they are in enclosed places,” he said.

Kenya has thus far vaccinated 16.96 million people against Covid-19, with 7.75 million fully vaccinated, while 7.9 million people are partially inoculated.

There are 1.05 million people aged between 15 and 18, who have received the Covid-19 jab, while 260, 905 have been given booster shots.

The proportion of adults fully vaccinated against Covid-19 in the country is 28.5 per cent, Health ministry said on Wednesday, March 9.

Kenya’s caseload, as of March 9, 2022, stood at 323,129. Total deaths stood at 5,641, with the total number of tests administered being 3.42 million.

At least 317,265 recoveries were recorded as of the time of publishing this story.

Additional reporting; Mercy Kahenda