Kenya braces for COVID-19 peak amid threat to healthcare system

Source Xinhua

Kenya is on the cusp of entering the COVID-19 infections climax amid threat to healthcare facilities already grappling with a high burden of other infectious diseases that are endemic in the country.

Kenyan senior officials admitted the recent surge in COVID-19 cases was a clear indication that the country will be entering the peak hence the need to tighten containment measures and avoid an implosion that would overwhelm healthcare infrastructure.

Rashid Aman, Chief Administrative Secretary in Kenya’s Ministry of Health said at a briefing on June 13 that the country was headed for a COVID-19 peak as ramped-up testing revealed a spike in community transmission of the virus.

“It is clear that COVID-19 cases will continue rising till we reach the much-anticipated peak in July or August as the latest modeling indicate,” said Aman.

“We have also observed that infections are moving from urban, metropolitan areas to rural counties. This trend is worrying and there is a need for urgent intervention to ensure the vulnerable are protected,” he added.

Kenya’s Ministry of Health on June 14 announced 137 new COVID-19 cases, raising the total national tally to 3,594, while the number of people who succumbed to the disease surpassed the 100 mark.

Aman said that truck drivers and urban informal settlements remained the weakest links in the fight against COVID-19.

“The truck drivers have one of the highest rates of infection compared to other demographics in the country. We also continue to record surging cases in slums within Nairobi where social distancing is not practical,” said Aman.

He said the government has earmarked additional resources to help devolved units upgrade their healthcare infrastructure and strengthen their capacity to cope with the anticipated spike in COVID-19 cases.

Kenya had tested 115,336 people for COVID-19 by June 14 and hoped to scale up the exercise in line with the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines to pave way for reopening the economy.

Kenya’s Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe urged on Sunday Kenyans to follow the government’s protocols to reduce the spread of the virus.

Patrick Amoth, acting director-general in the Ministry of Health, said that mass COVID-19 testing that has been carried out in targeted geographical locations, indicated that the virus was being actively spread in the communities, adding that flattening the curve was a distant reality.

“There is no doubt that the number of positive cases will double as we ramp up testing. We anticipate an average of 200 cases per day and our peak is expected somewhere in August or September,” said Amoth.

He said the Ministry of Health will implement WHO guidelines that include increasing bed capacity, establishing new isolation centers and hiring additional health workers to ensure a spike in COVID-19 infections does not lead to many fatalities.

“We are gradually approaching our peak and cannot afford to ease containment measures like social and physical distancing, hand hygiene and the wearing of masks in public since the threat of a second wave of COVID-19 infections is real,” said Amoth.

President Uhuru Kenyatta on June 6 extended anti-virus containment measures like curfews, partial lockdowns in hotspot counties and a ban on public gatherings by 30 days, citing a spike in infections.

Kenyatta said the government had set aside resources to boost surveillance, diagnosis, treatment and contact tracing in anticipation of a COVID-19 peak.