PARTNERSHIP

What Kenya should do to be removed from UK red list

Kenyans still subjected to strict travel requirements in the United Kingdom

In Summary

• The United Kingdom on Sunday removed several countries from its Covid-19 red list but kept Kenya in the category of high-risk nations.

• This means travellers from Kenya must take a Covid-19 test, book a quarantine hotel package, including two tests, and complete a passenger locator form before they go to the UK.

British High Commissioner Jane Marriott looks on as Shilpa Suresh receives a Covid-19 jab from nurse Norah Jepkemboi at Lions Sight First Eye Hospital, Loresho, Nairobi, on August 12, 2021. The vaccines were donated by the UK
British High Commissioner Jane Marriott looks on as Shilpa Suresh receives a Covid-19 jab from nurse Norah Jepkemboi at Lions Sight First Eye Hospital, Loresho, Nairobi, on August 12, 2021. The vaccines were donated by the UK
Image: ANDREW KASUKU

Kenya will have to increase its Covid-19 vaccination and genomic sequencing before being removed from the UK’s red list.

British High Commissioner Jane Marriot on Thursday said the decision to drop some countries from the list does not depend on the number of cases, adding that countries like India have an advantage despite their higher infection due to their large testing and vaccination capacity.

The United Kingdom last Sunday removed several countries from its Covid-19 red list but kept Kenya in the category of high-risk nations whose travellers are subjected to strict requirements.

This means travellers from Kenya must take a Covid-19 test, book a quarantine hotel package, including two tests, and complete a passenger locator form before they go to the UK. On arrival, they must quarantine in a managed hotel, even if they have been fully vaccinated.

“We are reviewing the regulations all the time and we hope that Kenya will come out not after too long, but the more vaccines you have and the more genomic sequencing you have, the easier it is to get off the red list and that is why India has an advantage—lots of vaccinations, higher levels of genomic sequencing,” Marriot said.

The countries removed from the red list include India, Bahrain, Qatar and the UAE. Kenya, Georgia, Mexico, La Reunion and Mayotte remain on the list.

Austria, Germany, Slovenia, Slovakia, Latvia, Romania and Norway were added to the green list, while France was moved to the amber list.

“It is not about numbers because people test differently. In the UK, we test random samples of people and in a country like Kenya, we just test the people we think are infected, so we can’t compare the numbers in a raw format,” she added.

The official, however, noted that paperwork for the UK-Kenya partnership in the genomic sequencing deal is almost ready, adding that the sequencing is likely to start before September.

The UK pledged to support Kenya’s genome sequencing capacity through its New Variant Assessment Platform Programme.

Under the arrangement, Kenya will use the UK’s unique sequencing and variant assessment capabilities to support local response to Covid-19, thus strengthening global health security.

The support includes reagents and equipment to increase in-country sequencing, technical advice, bioinformatics support and training.

“We are sorting out all the paperwork at the moment. Our scientists are working together and I hope by September we will start seeing the ability for that genomic sequencing to improve from the current 40 a week up to about 200, which will put Kenya in a really strong position in the world in terms of the numbers of genomic sequences it can do,” the envoy said.

“Kenya is a global travelling hotspot, it is a central hub, it is a really important country. We want to keep working with Kenya, get it off the red list and help Kenya and the rest of the world manage Covid as well.”

The partnership is between the Kenya Medical Research Institute and the UK’s Public Health England. It builds on the health partnership signed by Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and Health CS Mutahi Kagwe when he visited in January.