Third COVID Wave in Kenya: No Longer Business as Usual

Reflections on why Kenya needs stricter COVID-19 containment measures

If the tried and tested yearlong COVID-19 modelling experience in this study series for data-driven policy advice is anything to go by, then it follows that Kenya needs stricter enforcement of, and compliance with, COVID-19 containment measures in 2021. The extension of the curfew and banning of mass gatherings that were announced on March 12, 2021 should not be a surprise, after all.

The ongoing reports of increasing infections and deaths, not sparing public figures, must not be taken lightly. The vaccines Kenya has received under the global COVAX initiative, a ratio coming down to only two doses per 100 citizens, are not enough to assure herd immunity for the large Kenyan population. Even with additional doses, the number of years it will take to vaccinate 70% of the population at the rate we are used to is discouragingly high.

To Kenya and Africa, preventive measures are more critical than ever. It must be noted that Africa’s average case fatality rate (2.7%) has lately stayed above the global average (2.2%) and Kenya’s (1.7%). Kenya’s recovery rate of 79% on March 13 has been at par with the global average but lower than Africa’s average (89%). The following model insights into Kenya’s latest COVID curve will suffice to accentuate the key message on extra care and civic responsibility.

Model of Kenya’s COVID-19 Curve

The experience gained in modelling COVID-19 trends over the last one year has narrowed the range of uncertainty in projections. From the data reported by the Ministry of Health, the COVID-19 cases confirmed in Kenya took on a new curve from January 14, 2021. Up to February 26, 2021, this curve formed what is referred to here as the business-as-usual growth scenario in the numbers (BAU model).

From February 26, the curve started assuming a new upper trajectory leading to a new surging case scenario with increasing positivity rates. The population-normalised daily average testing rate also noticeably went up on/from March 7, 2021, from the former stagnation at 66-67 tests per million people per day to 68 tests per million people per day. It must be noted that the daily increase on this index has remained a fraction in Kenya, the highest incremental trends determined over the June — July and October-November 2020 period at 0.3–0.5 average daily increase.

In South Africa, a higher incremental index of 1.5 has been determined recently. The leading countries in terms of testing, such as Israel and the UK, have recently been scoring double-digit daily increments on this parameter — not surprising given their timely responses as calibrated by the intelligence derived from the abundance of data generated from aggressive testing and tracing.

Compact Bandwidth of COVID-19 Scenarios in Kenya up to March 31, 2021

The assumption is that Kenya will maintain a well-spread-out COVID-19 testing performance to at least 6,000 samples per day till March 31, 2021.

The following simulations define the most likely bandwidth within which the confirmed COVID-19 cases in Kenya are likely to hover around.

To date, March 13, the upper trajectory in the model has been the more likely scenario which, if sustained, could lead to more than 137,000 total confirmed cases on March 31, 2021.

The lower trajectory is the former business-as-usual (BAU) path that applied between January 14 and February 26. With the call for stricter adherence to containment measures, the BAU scenario could help keep the total cases to about 115,000 come March 31, 2021.

Key Assumption: The key assumption is that Kenya will maintain a well-spread-out testing performance to at least 6,000 samples per day till March 31, 2021.

Depending on the level of strictness in adherence to the recommended COVID-19 containment measures from now onwards, the next one year could usher in a diary of despair or a tribute of triumph for Kenya.

Conclusion

Kenya has reached a point on her COVID-19 curve that can no longer forgive any laxity or pandemic fatigue. The surge in cases is defying the business-as-usual projection. The vaccines available in the country are just a drop in the ocean. Preventive measures through stricter enforcement and compliance are the ready go-to option for all in the country.

The experience of the third wave confirms the wavy resurgent nature of the pandemic, already learnt and consolidated over a yearlong lesson. Depending on the level of strictness in adherence to the recommended COVID-19 containment measures from now onwards, the next one year could usher in a diary of despair or a tribute of triumph for Kenya.

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This is the product of more than a decade of dedicated experience in research, skills development, training, and mentorship. Through mentorship and career development fora, IBD empowers youth with the knowledge, international exposure, and digital fluency they need to be emancipated global citizens with borderless influence for sustainable development.