The coronavirus Delta variant has been linked to a rise in Covid-9 cases in the country, with the Health ministry warning that it could overwhelm the healthcare system soon.
The variant, first reported in India and the first local cases reported in Kisumu, is spreading fast, and now emerging as the predominant variant that is driving the third wave which has continued on a steep curve since May.
The first case of the India variant was reported in Kenya early May, when Ministry of Health Acting Director General Patrick Amoth said it had been traced back to Indian travellers who are doing some work in the western part of Kisumu.
Dr Amoth, who was speaking on Citizen TV yesterday, said that if people do not practise the measures put in place, the country risks having a deadlier wave.
“There is a risk that the healthcare system in western region will really get stretched and if it buckles, we are likely to lose many people, yet our destiny is in our hands. By simply practising the measures, we can stem the tide in the transmission of cases,” he said.
Dr Amoth added: “The Delta variant is of concern because this variant is more transmissible and probably leads to more serious cases of Covid-19.”
He added that the Ministry of Health has had talks with the lake region economic bloc leadership to chart the way forward. He did not, however, say whether closing the counties is one of the measures they have articulated.
Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe, who chairs the National Emergency Response Committee (Nerc) did not give a date when the committee would meet so as to give advice on how they would move forward and what containment measures would be put in place.
Experts warn that the Delta variant could lead to a fourth wave in the country.
Dr Ahmed Kalebi, a consultant pathologist, said the government needs to be proactive to nip infections in the bud.
“This third wave has a different pattern compared to all previous waves, it is not going down completely. Lingering active caseloads and bumpy offshoots driven by an intensified spread in Lake Victoria region are posing a huge threat for a wider rebound across the country,” he said.
Prof Thumbi Mwangi, the director of the University of Nairobi-based Centre for Epidemiological Modelling and Analysis (Cema) said the possibility of a fourth wave is high if people who got infected lose immunity and if the emerging variants continue to wreak havoc.
“The second wave was driven by the UK (Alpha) variant and so it is likely that these emerging variants are likely to cause a fourth wave because it is already creating havoc in Uganda and western Kenya,” he said.
The Delta variant spread fast in May this year after millions of Hindus descended on the banks of the Ganges River in the northern city of Haridwar to take a dip in the water. Hindus believe the river is holy and taking a dip in it will cleanse them of their sins and bring salvation.
This event, which is known as the Kumbh Mela festival, took place at a time when India was battling a devastating second wave of Covid-19, and it ended up being a super spreader event.