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Kenya detects first cases of Omicron COVID-19 Variant

Mutahi Kagwe – Health Minister-Kenya

Kenya has detected its first cases of the new Omicron variant of COVID-19. The country’s health minister, Mutahi Kagwe, said on Wednesday that at least three cases of the variant had been detected.

“We have detected the Omicron variant among passengers in airports,” said Mutahi Kagwe.

Kagwe did no specify when and where the variant was first identified in the country, but stated that it was found among travelers.

He further said those hospitalized with COVID-19 in Kenya were still suffering from the Delta variant of the disease, adding that there were concerns that cases of Omicron were expected to quickly rise.

“It is just a matter of time before Omicron becomes the dominant variant,” he told reporters in Mombasa County.

He added: “It is just a matter of time before Omicron becomes the dominant variant,”

Kenya has reportedly seen a surge in COVID infections in recent days. On Tuesday, the health ministry said the number of tests returning positive results stood at 11.5 percent, a roughly ten-fold rise on a week earlier.

Kagwe ruled out taking “knee-jack reactions” in response to the Omicron detection, saying any measures taken would be based on science.

“From where we sit, variants will come and variants will go…the decisions we make as a government in order to protect our people must also be measured and calculated,” he said.

The Omicron variant was first detected in South Africa last month. The WHO warned Tuesday that the it was spreading at an unprecedented rate and urged countries to act swiftly to rein in transmission and protect their health systems.

Since the new, heavily-mutated variant was first detected in southern Africa last month, it has been reported in 77 countries, according to the WHO. 

Early data suggests it can be resistant to vaccines and is more transmissible than the Delta variant, which was first identified in India and accounts for the bulk of the world’s coronavirus cases.

The latest research out of South Africa suggested that two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine still offered protection against serious illness from COVID-19.

Kenya has fully vaccinated only 3.27 million people, or 12 percent of the adult population, according to official figures. The government hoped to vaccinate 10 million people by Christmas, and 27 million by the end of 2022.

This week, the High Court in Nairobi struck down a government order to prevent unvaccinated Kenyans from accessing services and entering public places such as national parks, bars and restaurants.

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