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Chris Ochieng, one of the KEMRI staff prepares to load samples in one of the two Cobas 6800 at the KEMRI Clinical Research Station in Kericho in August 2020. The facility has the capacity to conduct an average of 6000 samples on both manual and automated platforms in a 24 hour shift. Photo/KEMRI.

Capital Health

Kenya projects spike in COVID-19 cases from March

As of Jan 21, the country had a cumulative caseload of 99,444 while the death toll stood at 1,736

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 21 – The Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) has projected that following the full-scale school reopening, there will be about 13.7 thousand new COVID-19 cases and nearly 116 new deaths by June.

As of Jan 21, the country had a cumulative caseload of 99,444 while the death toll stood at 1,736, according to statistics released by Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe.

The agency, through a publication dubbed Projections of COVID-19 Cases and Deaths Following Schools Reopening,  noted that there will be 1.1 million infections over this period, with the large majority of infections remaining undetected owing to the limitations on testing.

The agency projects that the rate of COVID-19 cases and death incidences will peak in mid-March 2021.

While noting that there will be more clarity on the impact of schools opening in terms of numbers by mid-February, KEMRI said the most plausible effect of schools reopening will be that the transmission rate in Kenya which will increase the time-varying reproductive number by 25 percent.

The country’s positivity rate stood at 3.6 percent as of Jan 21.

“The estimated +25% R(t) increase is conditional on other restrictions that reduce transmission remaining in place, and measures being in place to reduce transmission in the schools setting,” KEMRI said.

“A worst-case scenario would be an increase in R(t) by 50% and resulting in an epidemic of similar magnitude to the second outbreak in the country. We think this is unlikely,” it added.

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KEMRI further estimated that there would be a 50 percent reduction of within school infectious contacts compared to pre-pandemic social mixing in schools based on the additional measures introduced.

“We estimated that there would be a 50% reduction of within school infectious contacts compared to pre-pandemic social mixing in schools based on the additional measures introduced,”  the agency  added.

Students resumed in-person learning on January 4  after a nine-month break which was necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic

Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha said he was impressed with the turnout of learners even as most schools complied with COVID-19 protocols put in place by the Ministry of Health.

The KEMRI research was supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) using aid from the UK Government to support global health research, the UK Foreign,
Commonwealth and Development Office and Wellcome Trust.

Schools resumed in the country in early January even as President Uhuru Kenyatta extended the night curfew that starts at 10pm to 4am to March 12.

Bars and restaurants in the country are operating under strict COVID-19 regulations while large crowds remain suspended.

Kagwe has assured of the government’s efforts to eradicate the virus in the country with the vaccine expected in the country from mid February.

“In the first two weeks of February we expect the vaccine to be here and I have explained that the first people to be vaccinated on a voluntary basis are essentially health care workers another frontline actors being doctors nurses, teachers and so and so forth. We will not force anybody it will be voluntary,” Kagwe said.

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Kenya has ordered the COVID-19 Astra Zeneca Vaccine and is also keen to acquire the Chinese vaccine.

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