When the Ministry of Health started giving daily updates on the coronavirus two months ago, it reported a few deaths over a number of days. The number of deaths in Kenya is now 50, the second-highest in East Africa after Somalia’s 56. Kenya’s fatality total for Covid-19 is also high compared to those of neighbouring countries such as Uganda, which has no death from the disease, and Djibouti, which has only four.
Although Kenya’s death tally has not gone up since reaching 50 on Saturday, what is quite alarming is President Uhuru Kenyatta’s announcement on Saturday that almost 30 percent of the Covid-19 deaths occurred at home.
Data from the Health ministry shows that the majority of the Covid-19 deaths in the country, as well as those that occurred at home, occurred in Mombasa. The Health ministry has confirmed that seven people from the county have died at home, the majority in Ganjoni and Old Town neighbourhoods.
The home deaths are especially alarming since the people were confirmed to be coronavirus-positive after their deaths, meaning that those around them have been put at great risk.
This tragic situation raises the question whether the bodies of patients who have died from have Covid-19 infected others.
With 912 confirmed Covid-19 cases and 50 deaths recorded in Kenya, the country’s fatality rate is 5.4 percent, which is quite high.
Surprisingly, the same virus can lead to widely differing mortality rates and even within one country, the rate appears to change over time. For example, on Saturday, when Kenya had 830 cases and 50 deaths, the fatality rate was at six percent. The explanation for this difference lies in how we count and how we test.
The lack of widespread, systematic testing in most countries is the main source of discrepancies in death rates internationally. Kenya is not doing enough testing. This is worrying and could be the reason as many as 30 percent of the people are falling ill undetected.
The home deaths cannot be blamed on the government alone. In fact, in Mombasa, there has been blatant disregard for government measures. Some people have even escaped isolation centers after testing positive.
The government needs to test and isolate as many people as possible to reduce the home deaths and to keep the fatality rate as low as possible.