School reopening: KEMRI projects Covid-19 peak in March

Written By: Margaret Kalekye

public schools
Schools opened on January 4th. Photo Courtesy

Kenya is projected to record more new Covid-19 infections and deaths following the full reopening of schools whose impact will peak in March.

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According to the latest research findings by Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) reopening of schools on January 4th could lead to a spike in infections by 13,700 new cases and 116 new COVID-19 related deaths by June 1, 2021.

“We consider the most plausible effect of schools reopening on 4th January to be that the transmission rate in Kenya will increase the time-varying reproductive number (R(t)) by +25%, and, increase mixing between social clusters that were not in contact whilst schools were closed. Under the most plausible scenario, we project that the rate of COVID-19 case and death incidence will peak in mid-March 2021” the researchers reveal in the latest update.

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With the renewed hope of flattening the curve following the latest sustained decline in cases, KEMRI modelling paints a grim picture with cases expected to hit past a million mark.

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The scientific consensus is that reopening schools increases the transmission rate of COVID-19.

“We project the schools opening could lead to 13.7 thousand (10.6k-16.8k) new determined COVID-19 cases and 116 (58-289) new COVID-19 attributed deaths by June 1st 2021, on top of the 99k cases and 1,700 deaths reported to date. Underlying the observed epidemic we project that there will be 1.1 million (0.53m-1.7m) infections over this period, with the large majority of infections remaining undetected owing to the limitations on testing” the researchers said.

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The impact of schools opening is expected to clear in terms of case numbers by mid next month.

The projected increase is pegged on other restrictions that reduce transmission remaining in place, particularly in the schools setting.

KEMRI further warns that the impact of other events such as new variants could increase the R(t) by more than +25%, and case numbers and deaths would then exceed their predictions.

“A worst-case scenario would be an increase in R(t) by 50% and resulting in an epidemic of similar magnitude to the second outbreak in the country. We think this is unlikely” KEMRI says.

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The research institute says it will be updating its model with the latest data for medium-term forecasts of vaccine effectiveness in Kenya “This stage of model improvements is expected to be completed by early February”.

According to the Ministry of Health, COVID-19 vaccines are set to start arriving in the country as from April 2021.

The total caseload stands at 99,630 after186 more people tested positive for COVID-19 out of 8049 samples in the last 24 hours.

3 deaths have been recorded, bringing the total number of fatalities to 1739.

82,729 people have recovered.

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