Ending Covid-19 pandemic
Kenya needs to surge Covid-19 testing to beat the pandemic and return to normalcy. Widespread testing will help the ministry of health to find out who has the virus (with or without symptoms) and so be isolated to prevent further spread. A few weeks ago, this blog highlighted how Italy and Spain had been hit hard by the virus. However, they have managed to significantly reduce their case counts and death toll. This is as a result of testing in large numbers thus a greater portion of their total population has been tested and hence isolation of the infected for care and treatment.
New infections and fatalities are increasing in Kenya which makes the situation even worse; a clear indication that response to mitigate the spread of the virus is inadequate. Therefore, in order to end the crisis, reduce deaths and allow the economy to boom, then testing must be done massively. It should be noted that targeted testing is a good move but a bit slow. Mass testing will serve the purpose since everybody will have an opportunity to know their Covid-19 status unless when targeted testing is done.
Why testing is an important control measure
Coronavirus is likely to infect a huge population since its spread is directly and easily among people who are in close contact. Symptoms of Covid-19 are not definite and vary from an individual to another. In Kenya more than 50 % of the total infections are asymptomatic (exhibit no symptoms) and hence can transmit the virus and trigger outbreaks as it is the case in some estates of Nairobi and Mombasa. On the other hand, the virus is very dangerous to certain populations especially the aged and children. it can also be very deadly to a small percentage of a seemingly healthy population due to the damage it causes to some of the vital body organs. With that said, it is very important to do mass testing to separate the infected from the rest of the population until no more cases are reported.
The virus has no vaccine or cure but only preventive measures such as social distancing as advised by medical experts. With many victims now being asymptomatic carriers, the only possible option to find out who has the virus is by testing. The testing required is that which is able to identify active infections, for example, the RT-PCR tests which are able to detect the genetic material of the virus. There are other cheaper tests but to control the current spread of Coronavirus screening for actives infections will be a major boost.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has given a stun warning that Covid-19 pandemic might not end soon until a suitable vaccine is invented. This could take up to 12 months of vigorous researches and trials. This further reinstates the idea that regular testing should become a routine not only in Kenya but also in other nations of the world. Sadly, the rate of infections, deaths economic impacts such as loss of jobs may have to be high before the curve flattens.
Challenges for Kenya in their response
A few days ago, the government embarked on targeted mass testing in Nairobi and Mombasa. This exercise has faced a lot of setbacks some of which are related to the stigma associated with the disease. In addition, some citizens are resisting the move for fear of being sent to isolation centres at their own cost. Others still feel that they may contract the virus from the officers doing the exercise. The government has come clear on this stating that treatment will be facilitated and relief food distributed to the affected and needy families. The government has also embarked on sensitization and creating awareness via media about the disease to encourage citizens to come out in large numbers to be tested.
Another major blow is the allegations that China made test kits are faulty. India found that some Coronavirus testing kits are only 5% accurate and they ended up scrapping an order of 0.5 more kits. Britain had also made a similar rejection citing substandard batch of the important commodity. In Tanzania, the kits from China are said to be designed to give a positive test result after a sample collected from pawpaw tested positive. Forget about the quality issues, Kenya does not have enough kits for their population. This could be one of the reasons as to why testing is not very massive. It is good noting that most of the procured materials used in Covid-19 response must pass through the Kenya Bureau of Standards for thorough scrutiny before use. Furthermore, the government is encouraging local industries to do more research and invent more equipment.
The local industry has the capacity to boost the government’s demand as the war against the novel Coronavirus continues. So far, a group of university students produced a ventilator and there are a number of other private institutions still working on the same. This trend gives the government hope of manufacturing test kits during this period when the global supply chain has greatly been affected.