The Ministry of Health on Wednesday, December 15 confirmed that the first case of the Omicron Covid-19 variant in Kenya.
Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe made the announcement, further advising Kenyans to adhere to Covid-19 protocols and get vaccinated to avert the spread of the virus. Calming fears, he stated that they would not lock down the country.
The Omicron variant was first detected by South African scientists and reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) on November 24, although it had already been spreading in Europe.
Omicron was classified as a Variant of Concern (VoC) by the WHO on November 26. It is a variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. It was named Omicron after the fifteenth letter of the Greek alphabet.
According to the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), current vaccines are expected to protect against severe illness, hospitalizations, and deaths due to infection with the Omicron variant but breakthrough infections among fully vaccinated people will likely occur.
The vaccines have been effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalizations, and death from other variants including Delta.
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The Omicron variant likely will spread more easily than the original SARS-CoV-2 virus but how easily Omicron spreads compared to the Delta variant remains unknown. Scientists around the world have been working to better understand the variant and find the most effective treatment.
Its spread had resulted in travel bans and restrictions from various countries. The targeting of Southern Africa for travel bans was met with uproar as it emerged that the variant was already spreading in Europe before being detected in South Africa.
The United Kingdom on Tuesday, November 15 announced the removal of 11 African countries from the red list re-introduced in November following the emergence of the Omicron variant.
The countries are Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid stated that the variant had spread so far around the world that the rules were untenable.
“Now that there is community transmission of Omicron in the UK and Omicron has spread so widely across the world, the travel red list is now less effective in slowing the incursion of Omicron from abroad.”
“Whilst we will maintain our temporary testing measures for international travel we will be removing all 11 countries from the travel red list effective from 4am tomorrow morning,” he noted.
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