Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta. Picture: State House Kenya
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta. Picture: State House Kenya

Covid-19 in Kenya: We look back almost a year after first infection

By Crispin Adriaanse Time of article published Jan 21, 2021

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CAPE TOWN - Kenya has the highest number of confirmed cases and deaths of Covid-19 in the East African Community (EAC), although the data illustrates the country has surpassed two waves, in July and November, according to data from the World Health Organization (WHO).

African News Agency (ANA) takes a look at the state of Covid-19 in Kenya nearly one year since the first case was confirmed.

The most recent total is 99,308 confirmed cases and 1,734 deaths as of January 20 since the first confirmed case was recorded on March 14 last year.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has given regular public addresses on the state of Covid-19 in the country, along with the adjustment of mitigation measures. The latest measures were introduced on January 3 and are set to last until March 12, according to the country’s Ministry of Health.

A nationwide curfew has been enforced between 10pm and 4am daily. All public events and gatherings have been labelled “super-spreaders” and are therefore prohibited at all costs.

The only exception to this rule is for funerals, weddings and burials, for which prior approval is required and a maximum of 150 people may attend, provided the venue can accommodate that number and good hygiene practices, wearing of masks and physical distancing are maintained.

Kenya’s Interfaith Council’s regulations on religious gatherings have remained in place, according to the health ministry.

On December 23, 2020, the Interfaith Council’s chairperson, Archbishop Anthony Muheria, announced that all night vigils were banned and stressed the importance of following all regulations, since “funerals have been notorious in fuelling contravention of Covid-19 safety precautions,” The Standard reported.

Schools, which had been closed since the middle of March, reopened on January 4, 2020, as 16 million young Kenyans returned to their place of learning, Voice of America (VOA) reported.

Schools are required to follow best hygiene practices, the country’s health ministry said. Any teaching staff above the age of 58 or with pre-existing health conditions are required to teach only through remote means.

Kenyatta has urged the public to wear face masks and practise physical distancing and good hygiene, stressing that “the success of endeavour to flatten the curve is dependent on individual and communal behaviour”.

Enforcing Covid-19 prevention measures

The enforcement of Covid-19 mitigation measures in Kenya has been the most controversial in East Africa.

In September, Amnesty International Kenya, Kituo Cha Sheria, International Justice Mission (IJM) Kenya and Haki Africa filed a class suit against the country’s inspector general of police Hilary Mutyambai, Cabinet Secretary of the Ministry of Interior and Co-ordination of Security Fred Matiang’i, and the country’s attorney-general, Paul Kihara Kariuki, the African News Agency (ANA) reported.

The case was to seek justice for victims killed at the hands of Kenyan police officers enforcing the national curfew that came into effect on March 27. Within the first 10 days of the enforced curfew, six people were killed by the police.

Since then, there have been countless cases of excessive force and shootings on civilians in Kenya by the police, causing serious injury and death.

Consequences of Covid-19 and vaccine roll-out

The World Bank’s report in November 2020 on the financial and social effects of Covid-19 on Kenya paints a grim picture.

An estimated two million Kenyans have been pushed into poverty, the report reads, disrupting the progress the country has made in alleviating poverty.

A third of employed Kenyans face temporary or permanent closure of their employers’ businesses, threatening household income. Furthermore, 30% of Kenyan households have less access to health care than they had prior to the pandemic.

A suspected new variant of Covid-19 has been identified in the East African country. However, a medical researcher in Kenya has stated that there are no significant mutations to warrant labelling it a new variant, although studies are continuing, BusinessDay reported on January 14.

After new variants were discovered in the UK and South Africa, WHO has advised that variants should be named according to their genetic sequencing and not based on the geographical location where they were found, as this creates unnecessary stigma and politicises the coronavirus, The Star reported.

On January 13, the African Union (AU) Chairperson and President of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa announced that a provisional 270 million vaccines for Covid-19 had been secured for Africa in 2021, the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) reported.

The vaccines are reported to be provided by Pfizer and AstraZeneca and facilitated by Serum Institute of India, as well as Johnson & Johnson, with 50 million vaccines being rolled out between April and June 2021 to the continent. These vaccines are set to supplement the Covax initiative, co-led by WHO, to ensure that the vaccines become available to Africa as soon as possible.

Covax was launched in April 2020, by WHO, the European Commission and France, according to GAVI, the global public-private partnership.

Covax aims to provide vaccines around the world irrespective of a country’s wealth. It is said to be “the world’s largest and most diverse portfolio of Covid-19 vaccines, and as such represents the world’s best hope of bringing the acute phase of this pandemic to a swift end”.

Kenya is set to obtain 10.8 million doses of the vaccine through the AU and a further 24 million through Covax, The Star reports.

Furthermore, the UK is reported to be assisting Kenya in rolling out the vaccine, Reuters reports. British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab commented that it was not just their moral responsibility but in their national interest to have Kenyans vaccinated.

A draft plan that was prepared by African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) states that a dose of the vaccine secured by the AU will cost between US$3 and US$10, reports Citizen Digital.

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