Shock of Covid deaths that were not reported

Friday, August 21st, 2020 08:55 |
CAS Mercy Mwangangi addresses a press conference. Photo/PD/FILE

A breakdown of the contact tracing system and shortage of reagents and testing kits is threatening to reverse gains made in the fight against Covid-19.

A new report by the government also warns that the country may have recorded a higher number of deaths resulting from Covid-19 than officially acknowledged.

This is as a result of the government failing to capture data from Aga Khan, Kenyatta National Hospital, Nairobi Hospital, and Kenyatta University Teaching and Referral Hospital, which have the bulk of cases handled in Nairobi.

“There were a number of confirmed cases and deaths in the isolation facilities that had not been captured in the national line-list,” notes the report released on August 14.

But it is the breakdown of the contact tracing system that the government raises most concern about, warning that lives of millions of Kenyans could be at risk as a result of the problem.

Besides, little efforts are being made to follow up on patients put under home-based care to determine whether they were adhering to the laid down guidelines.

“Majority of the cases listed in the national line-list under home based care had no records in the catchment health facilities and no records of follow up for patients in home based care.

Neither was contact tracing information captured in patient files done by public health facilities,” the report states.

Already, the government has sounded an alert that there could be a higher number of individuals infected with the disease unknowingly and could be mingling with unsuspecting members of the public, and in essence spreading the virus.

This has been complicated by the apparent shortage of testing kits and reagents, which is making it difficult for the government to determine the exact positivity rate in the country.

The National Emergency Response Committee on Coronavirus, which conducted the study early this month, was shocked to find that the average contact per case had gone down to only one since the beginning of this month.

Only four counties have recorded between three and 12 contacts per case, with Elgeyo Marakwet boasting the highest number of contacts.

More worrying is the fact that Mombasa, Kiambu, Kajiado, Machakos and Busia counties have not listed a single contact for all the cases reported in their jurisdictions since the beginning of the month. The areas have the highest number of infections after Nairobi.

“Only Nairobi has registered positive contacts in the last two weeks from August 1 to 14, 2020 while other counties have not registered any case from contact tracing,” the report states.

And although Isiolo, Mandera and Elgeyo Marakwet counties have listed contacts for all their cases since August 1, none of them have been successfully followed up.

The committee now wants the government to release more funds to the counties and national government response teams to intensify contact tracing, monitoring, self-isolation of contacts and isolation of cases.

In order to control community transmission that the committee says had reached an alarming level, it recommends that contact tracing should mainly focus on household contacts, healthcare workers, high risk closed settings such as dormitories, institutions and long term care homes.

Out of 5,371 cases recorded in the top 10 counties of Nairobi, Mombasa, Kiambu, Kajiado, Machakos, Busia, Nakuru, Uasin Gishu, Migori and Nyeri over a period of two weeks, only 1,222 contacts were taken for follow up, out of which only 27 were successfully traced. All the 27 were in Nairobi.

In terms of cumulative weekly attack rates, the government has raised an alarm over the rising positivity rate in Nairobi, followed by Mombasa, Kajiado, Busia, Kiambu, Machakos, Migori, Uasin Gishu, Lamu and Nakuru counties.

The top 10 counties account for 93 per cent of the total 25,427 recorded cases by August 13.

The report also cites the number of days between sample collection and release of laboratory results as one of the weak links in the fight against the pandemic.

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