Hope of an end to Omicron wave as infections go down

Nairobians

Nairobians go about their businesses on a busy and crowded street on December 18, 2021. 

Photo credit: Jeff Angote | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • In the past seven days, the country recorded an average positivity rate of 5.5 per cent.
  • Last Saturday, the positivity rate was below five per cent for the first time since the peak of the new wave in November last year.

Kenya seems to be on the cusp of flattening the curve of its fifth Covid-19 wave, with official data showing a dip in new cases and a lower positivity rate.

The Nation’s analysis of data from the Health ministry shows that, in the past seven days, the country recorded an average positivity rate of 5.5 per cent.

Last Saturday, the positivity rate was below five per cent for the first time since the peak of the new wave in November last year.

In November, the country recorded its highest positivity rate since the onset of the pandemic.

The lowest number of cases was, however, recorded last Sunday, when 91 people tested positive for the viral disease from a sample size of 3,229, which translates to a 2.8 per cent positivity rate.

Should this trend go on for the next two weeks, the country can declare a flattened curve.

Flattened curve

According to the World Health Organization’s guidelines, a country can only claim to have a flattened curve after a fortnight of daily positivity rate of below five per cent. Experts have been cautiously optimistic.

Dr Ahmed Kalebi, a consultant pathologist, says there has been a remarkable improvement since last year.

“Saturday’s positivity rate of 4.9 per cent marks the first time since December 12, 2021 that it has dipped below five per cent, which signifies the final ending of the Omicron-driven fifth wave and most likely the very last major Covid-19 wave in Kenya as the pandemic gets to its endgame,” he said.

Omicron, first reported in late November last year, ripped through South Africa at a pace not seen before over the course of the pandemic. So far, WHO has reported three Omicron sub-variants, namely BA.1, BA.2 and BA.3. The global health agency notes that BA.2, also known as stealth Omicron, is quite hard to detect and may be spreading silently.

The BA.1 sub-strain is the most common among the Omicron infections that have been reported globally.

The BA.2 sub-variant is believed to be a mutation of BA.1, though it spreads faster. The Health ministry told the Nation in a past interview that the country is yet to detect a sub-variant of the Omicron mutant.

Hardest hit

Covid-19 analyst Shem Otoi told the Nation yesterday the curve is going down just as he had predicted using his Otoi-Narima mathematical predictive model of Covid-19 waves. He added that, while the infection rate will be on a downward spiral, mortality rate is likely to go up.

“The peak of deaths comes later because people get infected first and then the ones with severe disease may die afterwards. This is why the Health ministry sometimes reports late deaths. The ability of hospitals to manage Covid-19 depends on how well they are equipped with things like oxygen, which can save a patient’s life,” he explained.

Dr Otoi warned that, despite the optimism all round, the unvaccinated still remain at risk of getting severe disease.

“Omicron is mild, yes, but data from the Lake Region Economic Bloc shows that people who are not vaccinated are the hardest hit. It is worse for elders who are yet to receive the jab,” he said, adding that it is a matter of life and death for unvaccinated elderly people with underlying conditions. 

Speaking to the BBC, David Heymann, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said coronavirus could soon become endemic.

“My own view is that it’s becoming endemic, and it will continue to stay endemic for some time — as has happened with other coronaviruses,” he said.

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