Confirmed cases of the Indian variant of Covid-19 in Kenya are on the rise in Kenya according to the ministry of health. As at May 7th 2021, there were 8 people with the variant.
Addressing the press in a briefing at the Mwai Kibaki Referral Hospital, Public Health head Dr Francis Kuria said the case numbers had increased following another round of tests on Kibos Sugar Factory workers.
Dr Kuria said the infected workers had travelled from India to Kenya for an equipment repair exercise at the Kibos Sugar Factory.
“ These were normal factory workers hired to fix some equipment at the Kibos Factory. They had travelled here some time before we stopped flights from India to Kenya,” said Dr Kuria.
He revealed that the immigrant workers fell sick some time after their arrival in Kisumu, prompting the management to get them tested for Covid-19.
“A few days after their arrival some of them felt unwell and the management decided to have them tested. The management notified the Kisumu County Covid-19 surveillance team which collected the samples. The workers’ samples were then forwarded to the Centres for Disease Control (CDC) labs in Kisumu,” said Dr Kuria.
Dr Kuria said the national government swiftly moved to contain the situation after receiving the reports of the Indian variant.
“When we received the reports on the confirmed cases, we reached out to the factory management and the county surveillance team, locked down the factory and embarked on a series of more tests, during which the cases rose to eight,” said the public health boss.
“We isolated the positive cases and subjected those who had turned out negative to more tests. Out of the 50 that turned negative, another eight turned positive,” added Dr Kuria.
He reassured the public that the government was still engaged in contact tracing in an effort to ensure that the spread of the Indian variant is contained.
“Contact tracing is ongoing in an effort to identify, test and treat other cases in the surrounding area.We want to try as much as possible to ensure that the spread of the variant,” he said.
How Did the Indian Variant Get to Kenya?
Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe said the arrival of variants in the country was inevitable, as long as the borders were open to travellers.
In what appears to be an attempt to brush off criticism of the government’s handling of the recent entry of the 5 infected Indian expatriates, the CS insists that the possibility of more variants coming into Kenya remains.
“As long as we have new variants coming into the country, we will be required to be vigilant so as to avoid infection. We should be prepared to fight against other variants apart from the ones that have already been identified locally,” said the CS.
The government has come under fire from Kenyans over its handling of the latest Indian Covid-19 variant that has led to over 200,000 deaths in the last one month in India.
There is seemingly a pattern, one that Kenyans have taken to social media to question the governments handling of the pandemic. When Covid 19 was first reported in the country, for instance, flights from badly affected countries continued to come and depart from the country.
This shockingly casual attitude towards the disease persisted even as the pandemic continued to cross international borders after originating in Wuhan, China.
Even when it was clear that India was struggling with a variant and its healthcare systems overwhelmed, flights between the two countries continued.
Mr Kagwe did not explain why Kenya continued to allow flights from India to land in Kenya despite the reports of a surge in infections in the Asian country.
He however made it clear that reports of variants were the new normal in the fight against the pandemic, adding that closing borders was not an option for the time being.
“There is no way that we can stop the new variants from entering the country unless we completely close our borders,” which is not possible given the current circumstances,” said Mr Kagwe.
He added that the only solution for Kenyans was to practice the recommended preventive measures to avoid infection.
“No country in the world has chosen the total lockdown option in order to stop the spread of the variants. In order to be safe, we must practice social distancing, wear masks, wash hands and adhere to proper cough hygiene,” Mr Kagwe said.
He said there are several variants currently in the country.
“The current dominant variant in the country is the British variant, which is not the one we started with when the first case of Covid-19 was diagnosed locally. This variant is not the only one, as there are others in circulation, with more expected to come in,” he said.
Mr Kagwe also alluded to the possibility of more cases of the Indian variant in the country.
“There could be more cases of the variant already out there. Our discipline in following the safety measures and vigilance will be our saving grace,” said the CS.
As at December 31, 2020, Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) researchers had confirmed at least 16 circulating Covid-19 variants in the country.
The CS spoke at the hospital during the handover of an Astra Zeneca nebulizer to the referral facility. The equipment donation will be used in the treatment of asthmatic patients.
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