The announcement that Kenya could see a spike in Covid-19 cases by the end of July due to the spread of the more contagious Delta variant remains real, with experts warning that human behaviour could lead to a surge.
The country is still in the third wave, Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe said, and a spike is bound to happen should Kenyans ignore Covid-19 protocols.
Experts say that with the country’s test positivity rate remaining a concern, hovering at around 10 percent, it is important to watch out for spikes in positivity rates in individual counties to take proactive steps for localised enforcement of heightened measures in any emerging hotspots.
Asked how the government is preparing for the fourth wave, Mr Kagwe said Kenya is still in the third wave, which is yet to go down, and so the focus should be on taking the number of new infections down.
A wave is the fluctuating movement of aggregated numbers of something that can move up to a peak then move down to a low number, usually happening repetitively. This is akin to the way waves in an ocean can rise and fall then rise and fall again.
In the context of an epidemic or pandemic, Dr Ahmed Kalebi says wave refers to an increase in the number of cases of the infection, which goes up to a peak level, followed by a decrease in the numbers to a low point (that is the index or initial wave).
“But then the numbers can rise again and head towards a new peak that defines a new wave which after the numbers fall will mark the end of that wave, then the pattern may repeat itself albeit with different levels of intensity or peaks,” he said.
In Kenya, when one studies the curve of the pandemic, the numbers rose to a peak in June and July 2020 then dropped markedly to a very low level, only to rise again to a new higher peak in October and November before going to a new low level in January and early February.
The numbers started rising again to a new projected high that peaked at the end of March and early April, ushering the third wave.
While there is cause for concern when it comes to new waves, Prof Omu Anzala of the Department of Medical Microbiology at the University of Nairobi and the director of the Institute of Clinical Research (KAVI-ICR) and Dr Majid Twahir, CEO of AAR Hospital said the focus should be on human behaviour rather than causing panic on possible spikes and waves.
“There has been caution fatigue, which means that the longer the pandemic has gone on, the more Kenyans struggle to adhere to the guidelines and conform to restrictions and guidelines such as wearing masks,” he said.
Prof Anzala said the movement of people, engaging in superspreader events, and not limiting contacts, among other human behaviours, is what Kenyans should focus on, especially as we usher the political season later this year.
“The Delta variant was first detected in October last year in India but what caused the massive spread in that country was the elections and the Kumbh Mela pilgrimage. We can relate what happened in India to human behaviour which is why we need to adhere to the simple precautions,” he said.
What all experts hope will make the greatest impact is the arrival of the consignment of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and others that they said should be administered as soon as possible, targeting and proritising the most vulnerable people.