East Africa

Kenya Covid infection rate increases to all-time high

By JOHN MUTUA


Kenya’s coronavirus infections rate on Monday hit the highest level since the country recorded the first case of Covid-19 case in March last year, prompting fears of fresh restrictions to curb the pandemic.

Data from the Ministry of Health shows that the positivity rate — the proportion of positive tests — rose to 29.6 percent on Monday from 24.4 percent on Sunday and 6.5 percent on December 13 amid the spread of the infectious Omicron variant.

The surge in global coronavirus infections has seen many countries tighten restrictions to curb the spread of the Omicron variant.

In Kenya, medical experts reckon that the State should put on hold fresh restrictions given that deaths and hospitalisation have not matched the surging cases.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) labels a country to be a high risk if the positivity rate rises above five percent and advises countries to consider restrictions if it remains above the limit for at least 14 days.

December 13 marked the first time since September 30 that higher than five percent of tests were coming positive, focusing attention on infection rates as Kenya heads to the festivity period.

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“So far, there is no evidence that Omicron is more dangerous than the other variants and so the government should just scale up the vaccinations and adherence to the health protocols,” Githinji Gitahi, the CEO of Amref Health Africa International, said yesterday.

“Hospitalisations and deaths are still low but the healthcare should be ready in case of any eventuality.”

Hospitalisations due to Covid-19 have been falling from 1,021 admissions in September 30 to 175 yesterday. Deaths have dropped from four to zero in the same period.

President Uhuru Kenyatta lifted the curfew and allowed bars and other entertainment joints to resume normal in-person services on October 20, saying that Kenya had met a majority of indicators used to downgrade restrictions.

Kenya had by Monday fully vaccinated 3.59 million people and partially inoculated 5.31 million as the nation lags in its fight against the disease.

The nation had banked on mass vaccinations to keep infection rates lower and avoid lockdowns, which triggered layoffs and contraction of the economy last year. But the slow uptake of the vaccine has prompted warnings that Kenyans without proof of vaccination against Covid-19 could be locked out of government services.

The Netherlands enforced a lockdown on Sunday while Germany and the US have already restricted travellers from some nations on their red-list.

The restrictions have, however, faced opposition as the authorities make the delicate balance between taming the spread of the disease and disrupting the economic recoveries of various sectors.

Kenya’s economy, like others, has been hit by the pandemic, as restrictions to curb its spread reduced revenues and stifled growth. Economic output contracted for the first time in nearly three decades last year, pummelled by the impact of the coronavirus crisis on key sectors such as tourism.

Growth slid to negative 0.3 percent last year from 5.0 percent in 2019. Recovery has started, but there have been fears the pace could be slowed down by a shortage of Covid-19 vaccines and new waves of infections.

The Central Bank of Kenya expects the economy to grow by 6.1 percent this year and 5.6 percent in 2022.

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