Kenyans will have to prove they are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 to gain access to government services and public places such as national parks, bars, and restaurants under new health regulations.
The move comes despite Kenya recording a declining number of coronavirus infections in recent weeks, but against a backdrop of heightened restrictions in some European countries that are battling soaring cases.
Kenya will require people to show vaccination certificates from December 21, and is planning a 10-day mass inoculation campaign from November 26, Health Minister Mutahi Kagwe said in a statement issued late Sunday.
Visitors from Europe will also have to provide proof of full vaccination, he added.
Kenya, Kagwe said, has seen a “marked decrease” in the number of severe cases and deaths, with a positivity rate over the last 14 days ranging from 0.8 percent to 2.6 percent.
Since the start of the pandemic, the East African powerhouse has recorded a total of 254,629 cases and 5,325 deaths.
“I have no doubt that looking at these statistics, it’s very easy to become complacent and fail to appreciate the magnitude of the problem that we still face with the pandemic,” Kagwe said.
“The current decline in the number of new infections may be attributed to a buildup of immunity both through natural exposure to the disease and the ongoing vaccination exercise. Nonetheless, we know that it’s not yet time to celebrate.”
Only 2.4 million people, or less than nine percent of Kenya’s adult population, have been vaccinated, according to official figures, compared with a government target of 30 million by the end of next year.
Kagwe voiced concern about the low uptake of Covid shots, particularly among the elderly, and said it had slowed after the lifting of a night-time nationwide curfew last month.
He said Kenya had received a total of 10.7 million vaccine doses and expected to get another eight million, without giving a timeframe.
Under the new measures, in-person access to government services including hospitals, education, tax, and immigration offices will be limited to those carrying proof of vaccination.
Similar restrictions will be imposed for public places such as national parks and game reserves, hotels, bars, and restaurants, while all indoor gatherings will be limited to two-thirds capacity for vaccinated people only.
All those working in the public transport sector, such as pilots, drivers and “boda boda” motorcycle taxi drivers must also be fully inoculated.
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CNN Fires Chris Cuomo Amid Inquiry Into His Efforts To Aid His Brother
CNN fired veteran anchor and correspondent Chris Cuomo, the cable news channel said Saturday, amid an investigation into his involvement with helping defend brother Andrew Cuomo, the former New York governor, against sexual misconduct allegations.
Chris Cuomo had been suspended from CNN over the matter just days before his termination.
“We retained a respected law firm to conduct the review, and have terminated him, effective immediately,” a statement posted to CNN‘s official communications Twitter account said.
“While in the process of that review, additional information has come to light.”
The termination comes after documents surfaced showing that Cuomo, who anchored the 9:00 pm news slot, offered advice to his politician brother that was deemed too close for comfort by his employer.
“The documents, which we were not privy to before their public release, raise serious questions,” a CNN spokesperson said Tuesday, adding they “point to a greater level of involvement in his brother’s efforts than we previously knew.”
CNN on Saturday found itself in the awkward position of reporting on the firing of one of its own anchors.
“This is not how I want my time at CNN to end but I have already told you why and how I helped my brother,” Cuomo, 51, said in a text message statement read out on the air by CNN media reporter Brian Stelter.
“So let me now say as disappointing as this is, I could not be more proud of the team at ‘Cuomo Prime Time,’” Cuomo added. “I owe them all and will miss that group of special people who did really important work.”
Cuomo has spoken candidly of his strong bond with his older sibling.
“He’s my brother. And if I can help my brother, I do. If he wants me to hear something, I will. If he wants me to weigh in on something, I’ll try,” he told investigators in July when asked about the counsel he had offered.
“He’s my brother, and I love him to death no matter what.”
Democrat Andrew Cuomo was elected governor three times before resigning in August after New York’s attorney general said an investigation concluded he had sexually harassed at least 11 women.
In October, the former governor — whose father Mario Cuomo had also been governor of New York — was charged with a misdemeanor sex crime for forcible touching.
At the start of the pandemic, the Cuomo brothers soared to new heights of popularity: Andrew, 63, earned praise for his frank daily briefings as the coronavirus ravaged New York, and his live exchanges with Chris on CNN were peppered with banter.
The investigation into Chris Cuomo’s conduct remains ongoing, CNN said.
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Omicron: Don’t Shut Your Borders, WHO Begs Countries
The World Health Organisation (WHO) says the severity of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 is yet to be determined as scientists are still studying it. It, thus, urged nation’s not to shut their borders on travellers in panic.
WHO spokesperson Christian Lindmeier on Friday in Geneva stressed that data suggesting that Omicron was highly transmissible was only preliminary.
The UN health agency repeated that it would take another two weeks before more is known about how transmissible and how dangerous it actually is.
He also repeated WHO advice against blanket travel bans, except for countries whose health systems were unable to withstand a surge in infections.
“It is much more preferred to prepare your country, your health system for possible incoming cases because we can be pretty sure that this Omicron variant will spread around,” he said.
The Delta mutation – declared a variant of concern this summer – is now “predominant”, Mr Lindmeier added, “with over 90 per cent all around the world.
“This is how this virus behaves and we will most likely not be able to keep it out of individual countries.”
The WHO official also cautioned against knee-jerk reactions to reports that Omicron had continued to spread.
“Let’s not get deterred right now, let us first get as much information as possible to make the correct risk assessment based on the information that we will have and then let’s move on.
“Let’s not get completely worried or confused by individual information which are all individually important, but which need to be brought together in order to assess together,” he said.
The development comes as WHO said that it was sending a technical surge team to South Africa’s Gauteng province to monitor Omicron and help with contact tracing, amid a spike in coronavirus reinfections.
For the seven days leading to November 30, South Africa reported a 311 per cent increase in new cases, compared with the previous seven days, WHO said on Thursday.
Cases in Gauteng province, where Johannesburg is located, have increased by 375 per cent week on week.
Hospital admissions there rose 4.2 per cent in the past seven days from the previous week and COVID-19-related deaths in the province jumped 28.6 per cent from the previous seven days.
Dr Salam Gueye, WHO Regional Emergency Director for Africa, noted that just 102 million Africans in Africa – 7.5 per cent of the continental population are now fully vaccinated.
He said that more than 80 per cent of the population had not received even a single dose, noting that this is a dangerously wide gap.
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No Reports Of Deaths From Omicron Variant Yet, Says WHO
The World Health Organization said Friday it had not seen any reports of deaths relating to the new Omicron variant of Covid-19.
The WHO said it was collecting evidence about the variant of concern (VOC), as countries around the world scramble to stop it from spreading.
But despite a growing number of countries registering infections with the new variant, no deaths have yet been reported to the UN health agency.
“I have not seen reports of Omicron-related deaths yet,” WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier told reporters in Geneva.
“We’re collecting all the evidence and we will find much more evidence as we go along.
“The more countries… keep testing people, and looking specifically into the Omicron variant, we will also find more cases, more information, and, hopefully not, but also possibly deaths.”
While Omicron has rattled the world, Lindmeier also urged people to be mindful of the Delta variant, which accounts for 99.8 percent of sequences uploaded to the GISAID global science initiative with specimens collected in the last 60 days.
“Omicron may be on the rise, and we may come to a point where it takes over to be the dominant variant, but at this point, the very dominant variant remains Delta,” he stressed.
Lindmeier added: “The restrictions that were put into place in many countries just two weeks ago — economical closures again, lockdowns in some areas, closures of Christmas markets in parts of Europe — this was done before Omicron because of a rise of Delta cases. Let’s not lose sight of this.”
The spokesman urged people to use proven measures to protect themselves against Delta — and thereby against Omicron.
The WHO has said it will take several weeks to get a full picture of the transmissibility and disease severity of Omicron and to assess how vaccines, tests, and treatments hold up against the new variant.
As Omicron spreads, pieces of information are emerging from various countries.
“What we need to do is we need to take all these observations, assessments and tests and get this information together and then have the experts look at it, carefully weigh it and come up with the assessment. That will still take some time,” said Lindmeier.
“Preliminary data show that there is higher transmissibility. But that’s basically all we have so far.”
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