NAIROBI, Nov. 3 (Xinhua) — At some schools in Kenya, workers have contracted COVID-19, in others, it is the teachers and students as cases of the disease in the east African nation surge.
The learning institutions are turning out to be the latest hotspots for COVID-19 in Kenya, about a month since they were opened.
Several schools have been affected across Kenya, with some being closed indefinitely as others put their students, teachers and workers under quarantine.
As of the end of October, some 33 teachers, 17 students and seven non-academic staff had contracted the virus, according to the ministries of health and education.
The total number of those affected in schools has since risen to over 100 after more cases were reported in the institutions in the past days.
On Tuesday, 52 students, six teachers and two non-teaching staff tested positive for COVID-19 at Kolanya Boys High School in Busia, western Kenya.
The number is the highest to be recorded in a learning institution in Kenya since they were reopened on Oct. 6.
Busia governor Sospeter Ojaamong said the cases were confirmed following random sampling of students, workers and teachers.
“We have isolated those affected in schools as the rest of the community has been quarantined,” he said.
The cases at the school came a week after 10 students tested positive for the disease at another institution named Maranda in the neighboring Siaya County, western Kenya.
At the Coast, two schools, Star of the Sea and Tononoka High were closed on Oct. 21 after several students and teachers tested COVID-19 positive.
At least one teacher has died due to COVID-19 since the resumption of physical learning in Kenya.
Teachers interviewed blamed the rising cases on the difficulty in strictly adhering to anti-COVID-19 measures at learning institutions.
“Most of our support staff stay outside schools, thus, come early morning and leave in the evening which raises the risk of exposure to the disease. Some schools have thermos guns, others don’t. Those that have to screen their workers daily and everyone must wear masks but it is harder to completely block the virus out of the institutions,” John Wesonga, a secondary school teacher in Busia County, said on phone.
Similarly, most teachers commute to and from schools every day, raising chances of spreading the disease as they interact with students and the community every day.
But as the cases rise in learning institutions amid a planned full resumption of physical lessons, the government has reassured parents that everything is being done to curb the spread.
Education cabinet secretary George Magoha noted that students are safer in schools than at home since while in the former, they wear masks and sanitize their hands.
Magoha said on Monday that he will meet President Uhuru Kenyatta and Ministry of Health officials on Wednesday where the viability of the planned full reopening of learning institutions will be discussed.
Kenya’s COVID-19 cases took an upward trajectory since the country did away with most of the restrictions in August.
But the reopening of schools has seen the cases rise rapidly with the Ministry of Health declaring that the country is experiencing a second wave.
On Tuesday, Kenya recorded 492 new COVID-19 cases from a sample size of 3,728, raising the total caseload to 57,093. The death toll rose to 1,039 as 12 more people died.
Meanwhile, the Kenya Medical Association has called on the government to enhance the safety of health workers in the frontline of the fight against the pandemic.
KMA said the government should hire more health workers to ensure every Kenyan has access to the highest attainable standard of healthcare, provide adequate and quality personal protective equipment to all health workers as well as implement the compensation plan for health workers and pay salaries on time.
In a statement, KMA decried the rising number of COVID-19 infections in the country, blaming the situation on the disregard of protective measures recommended by the ministry of Health.
KMA has in particular raised concern over the ongoing political gatherings and urged the government to immediately ban the rallies for at least the next 30 days.
The association also expressed concern over lack of adherence to COVID-19 safety protocols in entertainment joints including bars and restaurants.
“This (rise in COVID-19 cases) has been attributed to pandemic fatigue, financial constraints faced by Kenyans during movement restrictions and concerns about the government’s approach and communication strategy,” said KMA President Were Onyino.
He said an increase in cases in several counties has been linked to political rallies, which have proven to be super-spreader events.