Kagwe warns of crisis as Kenya reports 685 more virus cases

Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe gives an update on the Covid-19 pandemic in Kenya at Afya House in Nairobi on October 18, 2020.

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • At a press conference on the pandemic in Kenya, CS Kagwe spoke of a "potential crisis" and warned young people against "flirting" with a deadly disease.
  • The CS further reported that the Covid-19 positivity rate in Kenya has increased to 12 per cent from the rate of about four per cent that was recorded when the government relaxed containment measures.

While announcing 685 new Covid-19 infections in Kenya on Sunday, Health Cabinet Secretary (CS) Mutahi Kagwe warned of a crisis following the easing of measures first announced to contain the pandemic.

During a press conference at Afya House in Nairobi, CS Kagwe spoke of a "potential crisis" and warned young people against "flirting" with a deadly disease, saying Kenyans should brace themselves for new containment measures.

CS Kagwe issued the warning as he took issue with a growing trend of blatant disregard of health and safety protocols meant to arrest the spread of the virus.

Barely three weeks after relaxing rules on public and social gatherings, he said, daily Covid-19 infections have soared by hundreds as the positivity rate shot from four to more than 12 percent.

"Today, at a 12 per cent incline and a daily rise in deaths, we can confidently point to a potential crisis unless we take some immediate action to avert this. We can choose to sink or swim," he said.

Political rallies

The minister further noted that the country is watching the behaviour of politicians, who have been holding rallies at which people have not adhered to basic anti-virus rules such as wearing masks observing physical distancing and sanitising.

This concern came as Deputy President William Ruto, ODM leader Raila Odinga and Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi led crowds in breaking safety rules in Meru, Siaya and Naivasha, respectively.

CS Kagwe also regretted that the very businesses that pleaded for reopening are the ones defying regulations by the Ministry of Health.

"There is no doubt that we are headed for a second wave [of infections]," he said.

"If leaders don’t observe the measures, the signal they send to the public is that all is well. Somebody has to take responsibility and this starts with leaders and business owners.
I therefore appeal to the public to adhere to all rules," he said.

"There is no sign of a retreat of the virus. Infections in a pub could lead to the infection of children and a domino effect ... we are seeing a return to normalcy even among health workers. Normal behaviour will have abnormal consequences," he also said, adding the trends since containment measures were relaxed have been worrying.

Positivity rate

The CS also reported that the Covid-19 positivity rate in Kenya has increased to 12 per cent from the rate of about four per cent that was recorded when the government relaxed regulations. 

He said the virus is spreading fast in rural counties, including those that were on their way to being declared coronavirus-free.

“Counties like Kilifi that had registered remarkable containment are now back to registering high numbers of positive cases,” he said. “Other counties like Nakuru, Trans Nzoia, Turkana, Kisii, Kisumu and Bungoma are also on a worrying trajectory.”

He linked the sharp rise in infections to “wanton violation” of containment protocols and advise from experts.

“Bars are not maintaining social distancing and wearing masks. I plead with you to follow the measures so that they are not escalated,” he said.

“What happens when you go to the pub, get infected then infect your children who are now back to school? Think about it. They will, in turn, infect other pupils, and they will infect others. The story can unfold.”

Other statistics

The Health ministry further that as of October 18, 28 patients had been admitted to intensive care units (ICU) countrywide and that the number of admissions was nearly 1,000. Health Services acting Director-General Patrick Amoth said there were at least 991 admissions, up from 450.

Dr Amoth said that of the 28 ICU patients, 10 were on ventilators, 14 on supplementary oxygen and four under observation.

Of the 685 new patients, 635 were Kenyans and 50 foreigners, 456 male and 229 female, and the youngest one year old and the oldest 99.

Nairobi recorded 141 new cases, Nakuru 127, Mombasa 73, Trans Nzoia 61, Kisii 37, Kiambu 30, Kakamega 27,  Kisumu 27, Busia 20, Kilifi  and Nandi 18 each, Nyeri and Turkana 14 each.

And then came Nyamira with 10, Kajiado and Taita Taveta nine each, Bungoma eight, Uasin Gishu, Laikipia and Machakos six each, Baringo five, Murang’a, Meru and Wajir three each, Kitui, Kwale and Makueni two each, and Siaya, Elgeyo Marakwet, Vihiga and Isiolo one each.

The CS raised concern regarding counties such as Isiolo, which now has an ICU patient. He also stated that counties such as Nairobi and Mombasa continued to record high Covid-19 cases.

In terms of the number of recoveries, Mr Kagwe reported that 105 more people had been discharged, 73 from treatment at home and 32 from hospitals, raising the number to 31,857.

He said seven more deaths had raised Kenya's death toll to 832 and that so far, the country has tested 621,976 samples for the disease.

“Cumulatively, persons aged between 20-39 account for 54 per cent of all positive cases and the majority of our deaths are among those above the age of 58. But we have also lost Kenyans who are in their 20s and 30s,” CS Kagwe said.

ICT Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru also raised the red flag, saying that “based on the trens, we think [tougher] measures may need to be taken because it looks like this battle is going to be bigger”.