WANT THE ELDERLY AND VULNERABLE PROTECTED

Experts say Kenya's Covid-19 status remains unclear

Cite inadequate testing and long delays in relaying results.

In Summary

• Last week, Ministry of Health officials told the Star many of the test results being announced daily are from samples collected in May.

• August may implode if we don't depoliticise disease control measures and arrive at evidence-based decision making — Dr Mark Nanyingi

Dr Richard Ayah of the University of Nairobi.
Dr Richard Ayah of the University of Nairobi.
Image: COURTESY

Kenya is unlikely to have reached the peak of Covid-19 infection ahead of the expected reopening of economy next week. 

Experts say despite delays in testing, the cases being reported show an exponential increase.

They are now calling for an elaborate plan to protect the elderly and vulnerable people if President Uhuru Kenyatta reopens Nairobi and Mombasa as promised. 

 
 

Speaking during a virtual leaders' forum on US-Africa trade convened by the Corporate Council on Africa on Sunday, the President hinted at reopening Nairobi and Mombasa after July 6.

Experts expect cases to increase, partly because of citizens' poor adherence to public health regulations.

"The first question is whether Covid-19 cases have peaked. Undoubtedly, despite the inadequate testing, the cases being reported have an exponential increase," said public health specialist Richard Ayah, also a seasoned health systems and healthcare innovation specialist.

Dr Ayah said the see-sawing cases being reported daily reflect the limited testing, possible delays in relaying results to people who have done tests and subsequent contact tracing.

"If these processes were working well, then there would be a sustained daily rise in the number of cases, or sustained fall if Kenya had crested the peak," he said. 

Dr Ayah is the director of Science & Technology Park at the University of Nairobi and the director of the University of California at San Francisco programmes in Kenya.

Last week, Ministry of Health officials told the Star many of the test results being announced daily are from samples collected in May.

 
 

Infectious disease epidemiologist Mark Nanyingi called for an approach that protects elderly people.

"As anxiety grips countries to reopen due to collapsing economies there is a dilemma of wealth above health, but the elderly, weak and poor need protection," he said. 

Dr Nanyingi is also a fellow at the University of Liverpool. He said although most African countries appear to have "dodged the bullet", it is not yet time to celebrate. 

"Africa's situation is very unpredictable. While so much gain ought to have been made in containment, we are witnessing defiance and agnostic attitude that deflates suppression of infections," he said.

"August may implode if we don't depoliticise disease control measures and arrive at evidence-based decision-making."

In Kenya, the lockdown, which was extended on June 6 for a further 30 days, elapses on  July 6. Uhuru said once the lockdown is lifted, the government will allow domestic flights.

"We are going to start domestic flights and this is what we are going to use as our trial over the next couple of days because we are opening up the lockdown of intercounties," he said on Sunday.

While acknowledging that Covid-19 response measures had helped save lives, Uhuru noted that the interventions have led to negative economic effects.

He said the informal sector, tourism and the hotel industry suffered the heaviest burden, adding that his administration had put in place measures to cushion vulnerable communities and businesses from the adverse effects of the pandemic.