New COVID variant: Kenya to quarantine all passengers from Botswana, South Africa and Hong Kong
In a statement issued on Friday, Ministry of Health Director-General Dr. Patrick Amoth said response measures in the said countries are not very clear hence the potential for introduction of a real threat.
Dr. Amoth pointed out that so far, cases of the new variant are restricted to the three countries stating that "given its ease of transmission and a global return to mass movements, there is need for increased vigilance at all our points of entry."
"Whilst passenger traffic may not be as significant from neighbouring Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Eswatini and Zimbabwe, enhanced surveillance protocols like quarantine and repeat testing will be applied to all passengers from all countries reporting the new variant," added Dr. Amoth.
The new variant christened B.1.1.529 carries 32 mutations which makes it highly transmissible and with potential for vaccine escape.
The Ministry of Health has thus advised all national and county health facilities to prepare to handle a potential increase in no. of new cases.
"Emphasis should be placed on the availability of critical care facilities, piped oxygen and additional HR surge capacity," said Dr. Amoth.
Given the now abundant supply of COVID-19 vaccines in the country, all Kenyans eligible for the dose have been advised to get inoculated.
All travellers coming into Kenya will be required to be in possession of a negative COVID-19 negative certificate taken 96 hours before arrival into the country.
"All Kenyans whether vaccinated or not are urged to continue adhering to the public health social measures- masks, social distancing, hand washing," said the Ministry.
"The Ministry of Health is keenly monitoring the situation and will provide further advisory as more information emerges."
Meanwhile the United Kingdom has banned flights from South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Eswatini and Zimbabwe. UK's Health Minister Sajid Javid said all six countries will be added to the red list -- meaning UK residents and British and Irish nationals arriving home from those points of departure must undergo a 10-day hotel quarantine at their own expense.