BOOSTER DOSES

Omicron: Unicef warns against schools closure

Unicef says nationwide school closures should be avoided whenever possible

In Summary

• Kagwe said on Saturday that between November 23 and December 7, 27 sequences (77 per cent) of the 34 samples sequenced were confirmed to be omicron variant.

• Two individuals with the Omicron variant had recently travelled from South Africa and Ghana and the rest had no recent international travel history.

Health CS Mutahi Kagwe during recognition of accreditation status and other achievements by the National Public Health Laboratories at Kenyatta National Hospital
Health CS Mutahi Kagwe during recognition of accreditation status and other achievements by the National Public Health Laboratories at Kenyatta National Hospital
Image: MAGDALINE SAYA

The United Nations Children's Fund has warned against closure of schools as the omicron variant continues to spread across the country.

Most schools closed last week for the Christmas holidays.

Health CS Mutahi Kagwe said on Saturday that between November 23 and December 7, 27 sequences (77 per cent) of the 34 samples sequenced were confirmed to be omicron variant.

Two individuals with the omicron variant had recently travelled from South Africa and Ghana. The rest had no recent international travel history.

“The increase in cases infected with the variant and have no recent travel history suggests ongoing community transmission,” Kagwe said in a statement.

As experts try to understand the variant, Unicef warned that school closures could be disastrous for children.

“The evidence is clear. Prolonged, nationwide school closures and lack of access to remote learning have wiped out decades of progress in education and rendered childhood unrecognisable. A shadow pandemic of child labour, child marriage and mental health issues has taken hold,” Unicef executive director Henrietta Fore said.

“Nationwide school closures should be avoided whenever possible. When Covid-19 community transmission increases and stringent public health measures become a necessity, schools must be the last places to close and the first to reopen.”

The variant has sparked fears of another deadly wave of infection, signalling that the fight against the pandemic is far from over.

The World Health Organization has said there is no current information to suggest that symptoms associated with omicron are different from those of other variants.

Kenya has witnessed a sharp increase in the positivity rate in the past one week, an indication that the country might be entering a fifth wave.

The positivity rate has been on an upward trajectory, with the number of Covid-19 cases also increasing sharply.

Data from the ministry showed that the positivity rate was at 10.6 per cent on Wednesday after 799 people tested positive from a sample size of 7,529.

The rate shot up to 16.3 per cent on Thursday, 22.4 per cent on Friday and 23 per cent on Saturday.

The government now banks on vaccinating as many people as possible with the current vaccination being at 8.8 million as on Friday.

More than 5.2 million Kenyans have been partially vaccinated, while 3.5 million are fully vaccinated. The proportion of adults fully vaccinated is 13 per cent.

The plan is to vaccinate at least 10 million people before the end of the year and the entire adult population by the end of 2022.

The ministry is also considering giving booster shots to those who are fully vaccinated to enhance their immune response in the wake of the omicron variant.

Edited by A.N