Kenya: Back to Drawing Board for Kagwe As COVID-19 Cases Increase

Five counties have seen an increase in their average daily new coronavirus cases in the last five days in comparison to the previous week, according to data compiled by the Nation.

New infections nationwide also surged, and this is worrying Health CS Kagwe, who said: "In the past few days we have observed an upsurge in the number of positive cases."

Kiambu, Machakos, Kajiado and Nakuru are among the counties with the biggest increases. Kiambu saw more than a 60 percent increase -- between July 1 and July 6, the county recorded 125 cases. This number shot to 207 from July 6 to yesterday. The country also recorded 189 new cases bringing the total to 10,294.

Hospitalisations have risen so much that intensive care units are full. The government instituted a lockdown of certain areas and limiting movement in and out of Nairobi but when those measures were gradually lifted, health experts warned of seeing spikes in new coronavirus infections because some of the counties have done little to improve their readiness to look after patients.

LOCKDOWNS

Likening lockdowns to a switch, Amref global CEO Gitahi Githinji said they are not an off-button but one that can be dimmed or brightened depending on factors such as the readiness of the health system.

Mr Kagwe is now relying on contract-tracing, an effective method of infections control where one sick person identifies all those that he was in contact with and they are tracked.

However, even the CS agrees this is tasking and labour-intensive -- you must have people to call and walk to the thousands of suspected cases for a period of 14 days.

Spooked by the stigma around Covid-19, people suspected of having exposed others have listed fake numbers.

The ministry is therefore adopting web-based data management which is linked to the medical records. Mr Kagwe said the 229 teams used in contact-tracing in the counties are being trained on how to use the tool.

Even so, the process of getting the samples from the ground to the lab has been a logistical nightmare.

For instance, the samples have to be refrigerated and in media where, in case there are viruses in the blood, they do not die before they get to the lab.

RUNNING TESTS

The labs for running the tests are in selected health and research facilities, and therefore teams had to be dispatched to pick the samples and then ferry them to these labs.

This, among many other reasons, is why the country has only managed to test slightly more than 216,000 when they should have run more than a million tests by now.

The Ministry of Health has procured rapid-response vehicles at a cost of Sh102 million from money that Kenya got from the World Bank. The Nairobi metropolitan area which comprises Kajiado, Kiambu, Machakos and Murang'a will get three vehicles. Migori, Nyeri, Uasin Gishu, Nakuru, Taita Taveta, Busia and Elgeyo Marakwet and Kisii will also get vehicles.

Mr Kagwe did not reveal what criteria was used to choose who gets a vehicle but they share characteristics -- closeness to the borders with truck drivers (Busia and Migori); closeness to Nairobi which is the epicentre of the virus and has very elaborate transport system (Kajiado, Kiambu, Machakos and Murang'a); dense population, on the highway and hosting major health facilities that can test the samples or look after severely sick patients (Nyeri, Uasin Gishu, Kisii, Nakuru); fragile health systems(Taita Taveta and Elgeyo Marakwet).

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