High alert as new Covid variant detected in South Africa

All passengers arriving from South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia must undergo tests

In Summary

•This was after a new variant of Covid-19 was detected in Botswana, South Africa and Hong Kong, with the highest number of mutations.

•This variant, named  B.1.1.529, carries 32 mutations making it highly transmissible and with potential for vaccine escape, meaning vaccines cannot counteract itl.

Acting director general for Health Dr Patrick Amoth.
NEW VARIANT: Acting director general for Health Dr Patrick Amoth.

All travellers jetting into the country from South Africa and neighbouring nations must have certificates declaring them Covid-19 negative.

The tests must have been taken 96 hours before arrival in Kenya.

The directive follows the detection of a new Covid-19 variant more infectious than the Delta variant, possibly more dangerous. 

The variant was detected in Botswana, South Africa and Hong Kong. Scientists say the variant has the highest number of mutations so far and could be deadlier than the Delta variant.

So far, it's too early to know much about it.

This variant, named B.1.1.529, carries 32 mutations, which makes it highly transmissible and with the potential for vaccine escape.

In a statement on Friday, acting director general for Health Patrick Amoth directed all national and county health facilities to prepare to handle a potential increase in new cases.

"Special emphasis should be placed on availability of critical care facilities, piped oxygen and additional human resource surge capacity," he said.

Amoth urged all eligible Kenyans to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 as supplies are abundant.


"All points of entry must conduct rigorous screening of all arriving passengers from the affected countries, with physical proof of vaccination prior to entry into the country for all inbound travelers," he said.

Amoth urged all Kenyans, whether vaccinated or not, to continue adhering to the public health measures. including proper mask wearing, social distancing, hand washing with soap and water and use of sanitiser.

Kenya is currently experiencing a decreased number of Covid-19 cases, with 254,862 cases reported as of November 26, a total of 5,333 deaths and a fatality rate of 2.1%.

The WHO said it is "closely monitoring" the new variant and is expected to convene a technical meeting on Friday to determine if it should be designated a variant of "interest" or of "concern".

"Early analysis shows that this variant has a large number of mutations that require and will undergo further study," the WHO added.


South African Health Minister Joe Phaahla said the variant was of "serious concern" and behind an "exponential" increase in reported cases, making it "a major threat".

The country's daily number of infections hit 1,200 on Wednesday, up from 106 earlier in the month.

The UK has already banned flights from South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Eswatini and Zimbabwe. India has initiated Rapid Diagnostic Testing for all passengers arriving from those Southern Africa countries.

It is expected that more countries will be added to the list and specific restrictions, including quarantine and flight bans, could be imposed.

(Edited by V. Graham)

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