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Kenya’s Covid-19 cases ‘to reach 1 million by June’

More than 1 million people will be infected with Covid-19 by June as the third wave of coronavirus continues to sweep across the country, projections by the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) show.

Researchers say under the most plausible scenario, the rate of Covid-19 cases and deaths would peak this month into April.

“Underlying the observed epidemic, we project that there will be 1.1 million (0.53m-1.7m) infections over this period (January to June), with the large majority of infections remaining undetected owing to the limitations on testing,” states Kemri in its research report. It projects up to 289 new Covid-19 attributed deaths by June 1, with daily death tolls surpassing 20 in recent days.

It states that the impact of other events such as “new variants” could fuel fresh infections and deaths, exceeding the predictions. And although Kemri says it is “unlikely” that the new infections will surpass the second wave, the current Covid-19 situation points to a bigger epidemic.

The third wave has so far recorded the highest peak, with the Health ministry describing it as “more aggressive, non-discriminatory strain”.

The daily Covid-19 cases are currently averaging at around 1,300, with Friday recording the highest number (2,008) in the history of the pandemic in Kenya.

Deadlier variants

Two variants of the SARS-CoV-2 have been identified in Kenya — the B.1.1.7 from the UK, which is deadlier, and the South African variant (N501Y), which spreads really fast.

The variants could be responsible for the current spread and deaths, said Dr Yubrine Moraa Gachemba, a consultant internal medicine physician at The Nairobi Hospital.

She argued that the current wave is also being driven by asymptomatic young population composed of school children.

“Children are silent super spreaders, in the first three weeks of schools re-opening there was a silent spread of the virus and then in the next one month, there was a double spread of the disease.

“Adding that people loosened their guard, the situation is bound to be like it is,” she said.

More deaths

Just like the number of cases, the number of Covid-19-related deaths have also increased.

As of Sunday, 2,117 deaths had been reported since the beginning of the outbreak, with more than 40 deaths having been reported in the last week alone.

“The intensified community spread of SARS-CoV-2 extending outside Nairobi means that the third wave may peak higher than the second wave with deadly consequences,” said Dr Ahmed Kalebi, a pathologist and the CEO of Lancet Kenya.

According to the Health ministry, 884 cases were reported yesterday. Nairobi and Mombasa counties continue to have the highest attack rates of Covid-19 at 1363.7 and 818.1 per 100,000 people respectively when compared to 271.9/100,000 for the whole country.

Nairobi, Mombasa, Kiambu, Nakuru and Kajiado lead in the number of Covid-19 cases so far reported, with Nairobi accounting for 46 per cent (over 58,600 cases) of all cases which have been reported in Kenya.

Wajir has the least number of cases- with 90 followed by Tana River with 106 and Mandera with 123 cases as of Saturday.

But, experts argue that the Covid-19 restrictions re-imposed by the government will help to stabilise the current situation.