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January 22, 2021: Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe (centre) when he received 3 smart robots from UNDP with funding from the Japanese government. He is accompanied by the agency's officials.

Capital Health

Kenya sustains COVID low as experts warn of surge from March

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.

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 22- Kenya has continued to record a sustained low of COVID-19 cases in weeks as the curve showed signs of flattening even as experts warned of a possible surge from March.

On Friday, the country’s Health Ministry said it had recoeded 139 cases from 5,487 samples in what raised infections in the country to 99,769.

“The cumulative tests so far conducted are 1,148, 030,” he said in a statement containing the regular COVID-19 update.

Kagwe said 137 more patients had recovered from the disease, including 110 from the home-based care programme. Kenya has so far recorded 82, 866 recoveries.

Fatalities increased to 1, 740, after one patient succumbed to the disease.

But even as the curve showed signs of flattening, the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) has warned of a possible surge of cases from March following the reopening of schools this month.

Kagwe said the government has already ordered doses of the COVID-19 vaccine that will initially target medical staff, police officers and others in the critical areas before distribution to other classes of people on a voluntary basis.

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.

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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 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.

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.

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

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