EXPERT COMMENT

Pandemic: Kenya is not in a good place

Kenya is undercounting the number of Covid-19 cases and covid-19 related deaths

In Summary

• The inconsistency in the daily number of cases, cannot hide the general upward trend in the number of cases. 

• Coronavirus is here among us, like in the rest of the world

Mombasa residents moments before the start of the curfew on March 27, 2020.
Mombasa residents moments before the start of the curfew on March 27, 2020.
Image: JOHN CHESOLI

The total number of Covid-19 cases (by June 15) is 11,252, with 209 deaths reported, a crude fatality rate of 1.86 per cent.

Testing remains a major issue, with two to three days when number of tests increased followed by a decline in the number.

However, it is important to note that Kenya’s capacity to test has increased threefold since the first few cases in March.

 

In early April, there was a one-week period when the tests averaged 1,000 per day, but this was not sustained through the rest of the month. This contributed to the low number of cases being detected throughout April.

In May, as the average number of tests per day rose above 1,000 then 1,500, so did the daily number of Covid-19 cases.

Dr Richard Ayah, University of Nairobi
Dr Richard Ayah, University of Nairobi

The second thing to observe is that every time there has been a drop in the number of tests, it has been followed by a drop in the number of Covid-19 positive cases. One explanation is that there are many more cases, than are being picked up by the tests.

A third observation we can make from the testing and Ministry of Health Covid-19 reports is that despite having a relatively low crude fatality rate, Kenya may not be in a good place.

Contrast Kenya with South Africa, which has a significant number of sub-Saharan Africa’s Covid-19 burden at 276,242 cases. South Africa has reported 4,079 Covid-19 deaths a crude fatality rate of 1.48 per cent.

The inconsistency in the daily number of cases, cannot hide the general upward trend in the number of cases. The five-day moving average gives a better trend of where Kenya is heading - upwards. In South Africa the trend of Covid-19 cases is the same.

Based on the current testing strategy and case definition, we can assume that Kenya is undercounting the number of Covid-19 cases and related deaths as well. The relatively lower number of cases in Kenya should not be a source of comfort.

 

Coronavirus is here among us, like in the rest of the world, older people and those with chronic diseases are more likely to develop severe or critical disease. 

It is spreading.

Dr Ayah is the director at the Science and Technology Park, University of Nairobi