A new wave of Covid-19 infections is seemingly sweeping through the country. Hospitals are full, with Intensive Care Units beds hard to come by and fatalities rising at an alarming rate day by day.
But even as the country crosses the 50,000 Covid-19 infections mark, with the death toll heading north of 900, a majority of Kenyans have thrown caution to the wind, disregarding the Health ministry guidelines.
From politicians out-competing to hold mass gatherings and openly flouting rules, to Kenyans going about their business as usual in major open-air markets, supermarkets, public service vehicles, and even in religious gatherings.
From Nairobi to Mombasa, Uasin Gishu to Turkana, Nakuru to Bungoma, the virus is choking the public healthcare system, leaving in its wake a trail of pain, suffering, and deaths as this callous attitude adopted by a majority of the population now comes back to bite.
“There is wide community transmission of the virus and we are having a severe form of the disease,” acting Health Director-General Patrick Amoth said last week.
His sentiments come at a time when hospitalization is at its peak, with Dr. Amoth admitting that the rate of hospital admission had doubled in the past two months due to Covid-19.
“Two months ago, our admission rates were around 450 in all institutional facilities. Today, the figure is 991. This means we have a widespread community transmission of the disease. More and more people are also going to health facilities,” he said.
1,198 Covid-19 patients
As of Sunday, a total of 1,198 Covid-19 patients were admitted to various facilities in the country while 3,437 were under home-based isolation and care. Outside of Nairobi, the Rift region has been hardest hit as the disease spreads to rural areas, claiming lives including those of frontline workers.
Uasin Gishu County has recorded 181 cases since Saturday, with one medic succumbing to the disease at the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH) and 20 health workers infected.
The facility’s Chief Executive Officer Wilson Aruasa said the male frontline worker at the Occupational Therapy department died while undergoing treatment.
He disclosed that 36 inpatients are on oxygen and another 70 under MTRH home-based isolation and care, the highest ever since the outbreak in March.
The Coronavirus Response Committee has attributed the rising numbers to laxity among residents who are no longer wearing masks while in public.
Deputy Governor Daniel Chemno, police boss Ayub Ali and Health Executive Evelyn Rotich have raised concerns on how public vehicles have gone back to carrying the full capacity.
“We have seen laxity in following Covid-19 prevention protocols; our people no longer adhere to hand washing, social distancing, or wearing masks. We are at risk of suffering deadlier effects of the virus,” said Mr. Chemno.
In Nandi County, Governor Stephen Sang attributed the surge to residents not adhering to government protocols. There was panic in the county last week after 160 people out of 4,615 samples tested positive for Covid-19. At least 117 people in the county have been placed under home bases care according to Health Executive Ruth Koech.
Nakuru, another hotspot, has been heavily impacted even as it emerges that Nakuru Level Five Hospital may be staring at a crisis as more health workers at the facility continue being infected.
Even as health authorities in the region insisted that only 16 medics have contracted the virus, the Nation has established that at least 40 health workers in the facility, the largest in South Rift, have been infected in the past two weeks. These figures confirm a trend in recent weeks that showed medical staff accounting for most new infections.
As a result, health workers’ unions among them the Kenya Progressive Nurses Association and the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Union have warned that it will soon be hard for the public to get health services at the facility as more medics contract the virus.
“As health workers, we are worried because the county government has not provided us with enough Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs). The government has focused on the provision of PPEs in treatment and isolation centres, leaving out other medics. We have been left to our own devices, operating dangerously amid a surge in infections,” Kenya Progressive Nurses Association Chairperson Rose Masita said.
The health workers particularly want the county to increase the number of beds at the referral hospital’s isolation centre, which currently stands at 28.
“Due to few beds at the Nakuru Level Five isolation centre, Covid-19 patients have been interacting with other patients at the hospital including those with diabetes and hypertension, which is very dangerous. We want Covid-19 patients separated from other patients,” said Ms Caroline Adwera, the Kenya Progressive Nurses Association treasurer.
However, county health authorities insist that the region has enough isolation facilities and that they are not full.
They said Nakuru Level Five Hospital with 28 beds has only 14patients, Langalanga with 32 beds has 13 admissions, Bondeni with 72 beds has four admissions, while the Naivasha sub-county isolation centre, which has 13 beds, has three admissions. Records indicate 92 health workers from the county have been infected since March when the disease outbreak was announced in Kenya.
Governor Lee Kinyanjui has sounded a warning that the situation may worsen if people do not change their behaviour and attitude.
And in Turkana County, access to healthcare services has been hampered after more than 20 healthcare providers were infected with Covid-19 and one of them died. Those who tested positive include nurses, clinical officers, and lab technologists from at least 16 departments. “We have been forced to stop some critical services that were being offered by those infected with the virus. We appeal to patients to opt for nearby health centres as one of the measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19,” Governor Josephat Nanok said.
The county’s Covid-19 cases peaked in October, with refugees and health workers confirmed by authorities as being at higher risk of severe infections.
Reported by Sammy Kimatu, Eric Matara, Wycliffe Kipsang’, Tom Matoke, Sammy Lutta, Barnabas Bii and Brian Ojamaa