NAIROBI — Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said on Thursday that a sudden increase in the number of COVID-19 positive cases in the country and fatalities has placed new hurdles towards realization of the country’s socio-economic transformation agenda.
Kenyatta said during a televised address to the nation that the pandemic had reversed economic progress achieved in 2019 besides wreaking havoc on livelihoods. “The pandemic has slowed down economic growth and disrupted provision of critical services like health and education. We must not backtrack in our commitment to defeat it and hasten our recovery,” said Kenyatta.
Kenya’s total COVID-19 caseload reached 66,723 on Thursday after 919 people tested positive to the disease while national fatalities rose to 1,203 after 23 patients succumbed to the virus.The country’s positivity rate rose from 4 percent in late September to the current 17.5 percent amid concern that flouting of containment measures is to blame for the spike. Kenyatta on Nov. 4 announced new measures to curb the spread of coronavirus including extension of night curfew hours, a halt on phased reopening of schools and greater uptake of remote work in the public sector. He acknowledged the heavy economic toll the pandemic has on his agenda for growth, shared prosperity, stability and peace, adding that its containment was interwoven with his legacy.
Kenya is among ten African countries with the heaviest COVID-19 caseload as efforts to flatten the curve prove elusive amid emergence of new transmission hotspots like rural counties, schools and entertainment joints. The relaxation of containment measures in late September led to a dramatic surge in infections amid fears the East Africa’s largest economy could be on the throes of a second wave. The ministry of health said on Thursday a total of 60 patients are in intensive care units, out of which 20 are on ventilatory support.
According to the ministry, 89 patients are separately on supplementary oxygen, out of which 71 are in general wards and 18 in the high dependency unit. The ministry also confirmed at least 2,207 healthcare workers have contracted the virus since the pandemic was first reported in the country in mid-March. Out of this, 23 healthcare workers have lost their lives since the pandemic struck. The ministry said that there are 1,279 patients currently admitted in various hospitals across the country while another 6,102 patients are in the home-based care program. So far, the total number of COVID-19 recoveries has reached 44,040.
Public health experts said that a sense of fatigue combined with wanton violation of public health guidelines was fuelling new coronavirus infections and undermining economic recovery after months of slowdown.
Githinji Gitahi, CEO of Nairobi-based AMREF Health Africa said that surging COVID-19 infections risk overwhelming public health facilities besides destroying livelihoods of vulnerable demographics. “The community transmission of coronavirus has escalated against a backdrop of flouting of public health protocols by a large swathe of the population,” Gitahi said at a local television briefing. “We must guard against a slide into a second wave that could worsen socio-economic challenges facing the country,” he added.