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Kenya: Concern as continental Covid-19 health worker infections rise

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Covid-19 is a major threat to health workers across Africa, with more than 10,000 infected so far, according to the World Health Organisation.

That number includes 635 Kenyan medics as of Thursday.

The WHO concern came as Covid-19 cases in the continent are rising with close to 1,000,000 cases reported. More than 15,000 people have succumbed to the contagion.

Some countries are approaching critical number of infections, placing stress on their health systems. 

“The growth we are seeing in Covid-19 cases in Africa is placing an ever-greater strain on health services,” WHO regional director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti said.

“This has very real consequences for the individuals who work in them, and there is no more sobering example of this than the rising number of health worker infections,”Dr Moeti said.

So far, health workers make about 10 per cent of all cases globally. However, there is a wide range among individual countries. 

Preliminary data shows that health workers make up more than five per cent of cases in 14 sub-Sahara African countries.

Kenya’s 635 cases are three per cent of the total infections countrywide.

“You are the frontline soldiers and if you slack we lose this war,” Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe told medics on Wednesday. 

He added: “We are also asking that health professionals adhere to what we are saying because we know that there are some who are misbehaving.” 

On Friday, acting secretary general of the Kenya Medical Practitioners Pharmacists and Dentists union Chibanzi Mwachonda disclosed he was the latest health worker to test positive for Covid-19.

Dr Mwachonda said in a statement that he was infected while dispensing his official duties. He is in stable condition and under self-isolation. 

“My family is safe, contact tracing and testing of all close contacts is ongoing,” he said.

 The medic said the disease is in the widespread community transmission phase and every Kenyan is at risk. However, that should not be a cause for fear or stigma to affected individuals or their families, he said.

“The high number of recoveries gives us hope that we shall, as a nation, win this war against the invisible enemy upon us,” Mwachonda said.

He urged Kenyans to adhere to Ministry of Health prevention measures of wearing masks, washing hands and avoiding unnecessary movement and gatherings to reduce the spread of Covid-19 and ensure the flattening of the curve.

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