Concern as Kenya records first unique Covid-19 case
George Kebaso @Morarak
Kenya’s first case of a patient who has contracted both the Indian and British Covid-19 variants has been detected in Kisumu, the government announced yesterday.
Health Cabinet Secretary (CS) Mutahi Kagwe said the patient, who was detected with both of the deadly variants, had no known history of travel outside the country. The discovery, Kagwe warned, means the variants have infiltrated local communities.
The CS said the two variants, and the South African one, were detected in 39 samples from Kenyans with no travel history.
“It is important to note that the ongoing surveillance has revealed early and established community transmission of both UK and Indian variants in Kisumu, Mombasa and Kilifi counties,” revealed Kagwe.
“It is even more concerning that none of the 39 affected individuals have a history of travelling out and into the country,” he added after meeting Kisumu Governor Prof Anyang’ Nyong’o, experts from the Centres for Disease Control (CDC) and Kenyan epidemiologists.
The discovery prompted the organising committee of the Madaraka Day celebrations set for Kisumu on Tuesday to drastically scale down the number of invited guests to 3,000, down from the initial 30,000, Kagwe and Nyong’o announced.
“In view of these developments, and given that the Kisumu County Government is supposed to host this year’s Madaraka Day celebrations, there are ongoing deliberations between the national government and the county on the manner in which the day will be marked and we shall be making further announcements after these deliberations,” Kagwe said.
“We had expected about 30,000 guests to attend the celebrations, but due to the surge in Covid-19 infections, which have been compounded by the emergence of the new variants, we are forced to cut out 27,000 Kenyans from attending,” the Kisumu Governor said.
He added: “We will not even have crowds outside the venue. People are being advised to monitor the celebrations from their homes.”
Yesterday’s meeting was prompted by concerns in the number of Covid-19 variants detected in Kenya.
Kagwe noted that this is an indication of an ongoing widespread community transmission.
“The Kisumu County Government has isolated the affected individuals and heightened contact tracing for potentially exposed individuals,” he assured.
The CS, however, said the two variants detected in the Kisumu patient have been subjected to further investigations through genome surveillance in order to understand them properly.
In a recent sequencing of 39 SARS-CoV-2 RT PCR positive samples from Kisumu sub counties, experts found 28 samples containing the Indian variant (B1.617.1), six with the UK variant (B.1.1.7), one sample aligned with the South African variant (B.1.351) and another three samples aligned with B.1.612, which was first identified in India.
The CS said the one sample with both the UK and the Indian variants is undergoing further sequencing.
This last case is a novel finding with significant public health implications, he noted.
Emerging evidence indicates that, the variants of concern are more transmissible, have a higher secondary attack rate and spread faster among susceptible persons.
Kagwe said the Indian variant, for instance, has been reported to be 50 per cent more transmissible than the UK one.
“As of now, there is no evidence that B.1.617 is causing more severe illness. However, the associated surge in cases has been straining the health systems in affected counties,” he warned.
But, the good news, he noted, is that emerging evidence shows some of the existing vaccines such as the AstraZeneca and the Pfizer one, are effective against some of these variants.
“Nonetheless, we have not been able to roll out vaccination programmes as we would have wished due to supply constraints,” he added.