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Alarm raised over new Covid-19 surge

Experts have raised the red flag over rising Covid-19 infections in the country, a situation they attribute to breach of safety protocols following relaxation of containment measures.

For the past six days, the average national positivity rate has been in the five-percent range, with the highest, seven, being recorded on Saturday.

At least 14 patients succumbed to the disease over the same period, a sharp rise from last week’s numbers where some days went without a single death.

“The positivity rate has remained over five percent, which is above the green zone, and we are currently in the orange zone,” said Dr Ahmed Kalebi, the CEO of Pathologists Lancet Kenya, one of the private labs testing for Covid-19 in Nairobi.

“Once we get to 10 percent, we will be in the red zone, which is the danger zone. We have persistently remained in the orange zone for more than a week and this is a cause for concern.”

He attributed the rise in infections to people dropping their guard and rising non-compliance with wearing of masks, hand sanitisation and social distancing rules.

Covid-19 rules

Since President Uhuru Kenyatta reopened the economy four months ago, there has been increased social, economic and political gatherings.

Politicians — including Mr Kenyatta, his deputy William Ruto and opposition leaders Raila Odinga, Musalia Mudavadi and Kalonzo Musyoka— have continued to hold political rallies in breach of the Covid-19 rules.

Flouting of the containment measures is also becoming the order of the day in schools, matatus, churches, hotels, supermarkets and clubs.

“The positivity rate for Covid-19 is 6.1 percent (for Sunday), a clear sign of increased community spread and relaxation in our public health containment measures,” said Dr Andrew Sule, the Board Chairman of Health Rights Advocacy Forum.

The trend, Dr Sule said, is a cause for concern and the Health ministry should be on the lookout, especially in counties bordering Tanzania.

Tanzania, which has not been open on its war against Covid, has since swung into action to stop further spread of the virus following caution from the World Health Organisation.

Wear masks

The caution followed the death of Zanzibar first vice-president Seif Sharif Hamad due to Covid-19 complications. There are also fears the new strain of corona detected in South Africa could be spreading in Tanzania and President John Magufuli has urged citizens to wear masks “made in Tanzania”.

In Kenya, as the nationwide curfew order expires on March 12, the government remains at a crossroads given the rise in infections.

Health CS Mutahi Kagwe yesterday said the ministry will look at the trends before making a decision on whether to tighten containment measures.

At the same time, the ministry has raised concern over the introduction of antigen rapid diagnostic tests in hospitals, which are not reflected in the national Covid-19 tallies.

In a circular dated February 12, Health Director-General Patrick Amoth stated that all testing facilities that use antigen testing must have their kits validated by the Kenya Medical Laboratory Technologist and Technicians Board and submit their results to the ministry.