Experts reaction on rise of Covid-19 infections in the Lake Region

Behavior change needed to stop the spread of COVID-19 in Kisumu City and its environs

Dr. Gregory Ganda, Acting Chief Officer of health, Kisumu County

“If you compare the highest peak that Kisumu has ever had, we had a peak in November, last year, where we had 636 cases. The cases went down and the other month we had 540; but in May alone, we had 1660 cases. So that is slightly less than triple the number of cases we saw in May. This is not unexpected, because we have always said that every wave will have a slightly high number. But this particular wave has been interesting because of the introduction of new variants into the Kenyan space.

We in the health sector think that the current wave is spread mainly by the so-called Delta variant. Delta variant is most likely causing this wave that we are seeing here, and it is not only in Kisumu. It is being seen in Migori County, with very high number of cases reported there. The same scenario is being observed in Siaya County as well. The number of in-patients has increased seven times. They used to have two to three in-patients, but now they have fourteen and above. So, the new Covid-19 pandemic infections wave is all over this Lake Victoria region.

We have done a lot in terms of trying to control the disease, including taking some preventive measures. Not all can work out when you have an epidemic and it just needs us to be stricter in what we are doing. The same standard operating procedures are being emphasized: washing of hands, wearing masks, keep away from people (6 feet distance). Problem is that most people still do not follow those guidelines.

The new wave has driven up demand for vaccines. The hesitancy witnessed earlier is dying down. Vaccination numbers are up. We have been able to vaccinate 7,200 health workers, 2500 teachers, 7600 other individuals and 6900 over 58year-olds. Curative doses that we have been given up to now is 39,000 doses of AstraZeneca Vaccines. We just received another 5,000 doses recently from Kakamega County, who decided to help us due to high infection rates in Kisumu City.

The transport sector is a super spreader of the pandemic. Discipline has to be within us as the people because the police are trying, they are always having roadblocks, trying to check that the people are following COVID-19 rules. But this is not working out because we are a difficult people by nature, I think. The matatu touts take advantage of absences of law enforcers to overload their vehicles. People should protect themselves by not entering or using overloaded vehicles, both public and private.  Stop putting yourself and others at risk. Follow the rules.

So, the transport industry will always be a problem. A vehicle is a confined space for as long as you are in a confined space, even when you are doing that social distancing in the vehicle. By doing that, you are just reducing the risk but not eliminating it. We cannot stop, so we have to balance the economy, between going to eat, going to work and getting COVID. So we can only reduce the risk but not eliminate it.

If we are to eliminate it, then we have to tell people to stay at home and never come out, then we will be sure they are not going to get COVID. But for as long as people have to go out and work and eat, we are sure that there is that risk that you can get COVID. So, what we need to do is reduce that risk by following the protocols we have talked about.

By the way, the high number of cases we are seeing is not because we are not following the protocols, I think the new variant is also highly effective unlike the other variants. So it spreads much faster than the other variants that we know and probably that is why what we are seeing here is almost twice or three times. The same interventions we have been doing, is what we are doing now and probably, even better. We used to test using PCR and wait for 24 hours before we get your results but now we are doing rapid tests. We test you now and within 30 minutes we have your results. We get your contacts and within 30 minutes we test them, so in one day, we can go to two or three generations of contacts, compared to when we used to do one generation per day. This is much better but you can see the disease is spreading faster than us. That means that there is something, it is highly effective and highly infectious, it is moving very fast.”

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