Update on Covid in East Africa

It’s two weeks and counting since the Kenyan government imposed restrictions on gatherings and an earlier curfew in the country’s Western and Lake Basin regions after a spike in coronavirus infections. Kenya’s Ministry of Health declared Kisumu County among the thirteen counties considered a hotspot zone, with 60% of the country’s new infections. This region includes the majority of Kenyan Quakers. The current surge in infections in the western region is partly blamed on the National Independence Day event hosted in Kisumu County in early June, and also on confirmed cases of the highly-transmissable delta variant first reported in India.

This is the first time the government has issued such restrictions in this region. As we continue to fight this monster without a face, we at the Africa Ministries Office continue to work in shifts to reduce contact among our staff and walk-in guests. We encourage more people to use our online platforms for interaction and limit our meetings to virtual connections. The surge in Covid deaths within Kenya has turned out to include the names of people we know. The Quaker community in Kenya has lost many friends we never imagined we would lose.

We need to be our brothers’ keepers to curb the spread of the virus, through sanitization, hand washing, avoiding groups, and putting on masks. The government of Kenya has introduced a 7 pm to 4 am curfew, and a ban on public gatherings that includes face-to-face church meetings and the closure of non-food markets. These will continue for several more weeks within the Western and Lake Basin regions.

Even as we are taking the necessary precautions, reports from the Kenya Medical Research Institute forecast that for the next six months we should be experiencing a fourth wave of infections as a result of the variant that originated from India and was reported in Kisumu. This variant is gaining more dominance within the country and we are uncertain about what to expect.

Despite our uncertainties there is some light of hope with the roll-out of the imported vaccines. The first small wave of vaccines covered less than 4% of the population.  We expect a mass rollout of more vaccines to begin by the end of this month. In a recent presidential address, the Kenyan government announced plans to import the vaccines in bulk and make Kenya a supply hub for East and Central Africa. Even though some Kenyans have formed fictions about the vaccines, the government plans to vaccinate as many willing citizens as possible. We are hoping that our lay leaders and clergy will be able to get vaccinated, as well as to educate and encourage congregations to take up this vaccine.

It has been hard to get reliable updates on Covid information from other East African countries, such as Tanzania and Uganda, but when one country is affected the rest are affected, also, since we share borders and live as one community. Currently, life sounds fairly normal in Tanzania and people are free to move around and gather. Friends are just being cautioned to observe safety precautions as they are able. Meanwhile, the situation in Uganda is quite severe. Schools are closed, and public movement and transportation are severely restricted. Since there is already a lot of poverty in Uganda, each restriction has serious ripple effects on the economy and on people’s livelihoods. They ask for our prayers.

We continue to hold each other in prayer, and with the hope that Friends will be a bright light in this darkness. Please pray with us that Covid-19 will be history soon.