President Kenyatta says new COVID-19 variant Omicron 'a virus of concern'

President Kenyatta says new COVID-19 variant Omicron 'a virus of concern'

President Uhuru Kenyatta delivering the State of the Nation Address in Parliament on November 30, 2021. PHOTO| COURTESY

  • President Kenyatta pointed out that the new variant's profile remains unknown to health experts hence the need for every Kenyan to exercise caution and get vaccinated.
  • The Head of State noted that the country is on course to achieving its target of vaccinating 10 million Kenyan adults by December this year.

President Uhuru Kenyatta is now calling on all Kenyans who have not received the COVID-19 vaccine to do so as one of the measures to guard against the new variant Omicron.

Delivering the State of the Nation Address in Parliament on Tuesday, President Kenyatta pointed out that the new variant's profile remains unknown to health experts hence the need for every Kenyan to exercise caution and get vaccinated.

"While a few battles have been won, the war against COVID-19 is not won and we cannot rest on our roles. Now more than ever we are faced with yet another variant of this coronavirus. The Omicron variant that is said to carry a higher risk of infection," said Kenyatta.

He added: "This new variant's profile, for now, remains unknown. It is, therefore, better to be on the side of caution. By receiving our vaccinations, we will have played our part in securing not only our own lives but also protecting the lives of those around us. let us be responsible in this endeavour."

The Head of State noted that the country is on course to achieving its target of vaccinating 10 million Kenyan adults by December this year.

He noted that at the moment the Ministry of Health is registering over 100,000 vaccinations daily.

"This variant may explain infection rate spikes that we are witnessing across the globe. I did pledge to the nation in June this year that we would have over 10 million adults vaccinated by December. As of today, we have achieved a target 7.1 million Kenyans up from 5 million as announced on Mashujaa Day in October 2020," said Kenyatta.

He called on Kenyans to rally under the "25 days to Christmas" call and get vaccinated.

"We have a much smaller target to meet within the next 25 days. I call on all Kenyans to rally under the call of 25 days to Christmas to secure their vaccinations to meet and surpass the target we set," said the President.

On Monday, the World Health Organization said the heavily mutated Omicron coronavirus variant that has been reported in South Africa, Botswana and Hong Kong is likely to spread internationally and poses a very high risk of infection surges that could have "severe consequences" in some places.

No Omicron-linked deaths had yet been reported, though further research was needed to assess its potential to resist vaccines and immunity induced by previous infections, it added.

Anticipating increased case numbers as the variant, first reported last week, spreads, the WHO urged its 194 member states to accelerate vaccination of high-priority groups.

Last week, the Ministry of Health in Kenya said all passengers travelling to Kenya from Botswana, South Africa and Hong Kong will be subjected to enhanced COVID-19 surveillance measures following reports of the new variant in the said countries.

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.