Kenya’s coronavirus infections rate has crossed the World Health Organisation (WHO) high-risk limit of five percent for the first time since the government lifted the nationwide curfew on October 20.
Data from the Ministry of Health shows that the positivity rate — the proportion of tests coming back positive — rose to 6.5 percent on Monday from five percent recorded on Sunday amid the emergence of the infectious Omicron variant.
The WHO labels a country to be a high risk if the positivity rate rises above five percent and advises countries to consider imposing restrictions measures such as lockdowns if it remains above the limit for at least 14 days.
Monday marked the first time since September 30 that more than five percent of tests were coming back positive, focusing attention on infection rates as Kenya heads to the festivity period. The positivity rate had dropped sharply from 14.5 percent on August 15.
President Uhuru Kenyatta lifted the curfew and allowed bars and other entertainment joints to resume normal in-person services on October 20, saying that Kenya had met a majority of indicators used to downgrade restrictions.
Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe last week said that National Emergency Response Committee (NERC) had held a crisis meeting to discuss and assess new steps to contain the new Omicron variant.
Kenya has been on alert after Uganda confirmed the first cases of Omicron, joining nearly a dozen countries in Africa where the new strain has been detected.
South Africa has seen a surge of infections since the new variant was first detected in November.
Despite Omicron being more transmissible than previous strains, including Delta, the risk of severe disease and death is lower, a study has found.
The rise in positivity rate and the emergence of the new variant put Kenya’s fight against the disease in the spotlight given that the country is lagging in its vaccination drive.
Kenya plans to vaccinate at least 10 million by Christmas but so far 3.26 million adults have been fully vaccinated, representing 12 percent of the population. Some 4.93 million have been partially vaccinated.
The WHO also recommends that governments should heighten containment measures if hospitalisations and ICU admissions increase over two weeks and Covid-19 deaths drop over a period of three weeks.