by Catherine Njau
Mombasa County is on high alert after three people tested positive for the highly infectious Indian variant of Covid-19. This comes after the Ministry of Health (MOH) reported the first case of the Indian variant on May 5, days after it was detected in neighboring Uganda.
In Mombasa, the two of the three patients who tested positive had arrived in the country between April 18 and 19, through Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi. They later travelled to Mombasa by road, however, it has remained unclear how they managed to arrive in Mombasa.
A presidential directive was in place, barring movement out of and into Nairobi at the time. One of the patients is a Kenyan to have travelled to India to attend to a patient and returned on April 18; the other is an Indian national who works in Kenya and arrived on April 19.
Mombasa County’s public health chief officer Pauline Oginga, spoke to the Star saying “The two started manifesting symptoms days after arriving. They were placed in isolation as samples were taken to Kemri in Kilifi for testing and obtained positive results for the Indian variant.”
Oginga said when the two arrived in Kenya, their results were negative but a few days later they developed symptoms and got tested again. She said the surveillance team has intensified tracing of those who interacted with them and also those who interacted with their contacts.
The third case was from an individual who had travelled with a sick patient to Mombasa and later developed symptoms. As another case has also been reported in Samburu village, Kwale County. Ms Pauline Oginga said they were working closely with the national government to ensure contact tracing is done for all the passengers who arrived with the two patients.
Upon the detection of the B.1.617 variant from India, the health ministry’s director general, Dr Patrick Amoth said, “This variant has been picked (up) in Kenya and because of global connectivity; it is just a question of time. You cannot be able to put barriers … to prevent a virus from accessing your territory.
The case was detected among samples taken from Indian travellers who were working in Kisumu, a city in western Kenya, he added. No further details were provided. The World Health Organization (WHO) has said the B.1.617 variant of Covid-19, which was first found in India, has now been reported in more than a dozen countries.
According to the Africa Centres for Disease Control, 20 countries are currently reporting the B.1.1.7 variant of coronavirus that was first detected in the United Kingdom in September 2020.
The countries are Algeria, Angola, Cape Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, DR Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gambia, Ghana, Gabon, Kenya, Libya, Malawi, Mauritius, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Togo and Tunisia.