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Kenya’s Covid Results Give Rise for Optimism


Posted: October 10, 2020

Kenya’s COVID Results Give Rise for Optimism

When Kenya implemented strict lockdown procedures in the early days of the epidemic, the country held its breath.   With the pandemic ravaging western countries and with Kenya’s health service not in the same league as wealthier countries, there was great anxiety as to what would happen.

But Kenyan Deaths Are Far Lower than the Rest of the World

Officially, 581 people have died of coronavirus in Kenya.  It is less than 2% of the 34,493 people who have tested positive for coronavirus. Kenya’s numbers stand apart from the rest of the world. For example,  coronavirus infected 272,912 people in Italy, and 13% died, creating a death toll of 35,507.  According to the WHO’s estimate of a 0.5% morbidity rate, then Kenya’s death rate should have approximated 12,500 deaths (as opposed to 581)

Possible Reasons for Kenya’s Low Death & Infection Rates

  • Face masks were embraced by the population

As soon as the government announced the requirement to wear face masks, it was embraced by the population immediately.   Indeed, it is rare to find a Kenyan not wearing a mask

  • Strict lockdown eliminated city to country visits

The strict lockdowns stopped Kenyans from going up-country and visiting their relatives and even crossing the city.

  • Kenyans’ youthfulness is likely a major factor

The mean age in Kenya is 19 years  So far, coronavirus has predominantly affected cities in Kenya and its cities are overwhelmingly a young demographic whose tolerance of the disease is higher

  • Older Kenyans are geographically isolated from cities

Only 2% of Kenyans are 60 or older.  Most are in rural areas. Keeping older people apart from their younger relatives could well have protected them from infection.

  • Other medications and vaccines may have worked in Kenyan’s favour

It is possible that antivirals taken for HIV provide a broadly protective effect.  Around 2% of the population are on antiviral HIV medication.  It is also possible that the Calmette-Guerin tuberculosis vaccine and oral polio vaccines (given at birth) could be protective, but this is only speculation that needs to be substantiated through research.   

Regardless and whilst Kenya is still in the midst of the pandemic, it has so far avoided overwhelming its health system,  With lower rates of infections and deaths which are a hallmark of its pandemic journey the country is not taking anything for granted.  The country is opening up slowly under the governance of well-constructed and well thought out plans.