Rwanda And Kenya Confirm Cases of Omicron Coronavirus Variant

Kenya Rwanda Omicron cases
A healthcare worker holds a syringe and a vial with vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the Masaka hospital in Kigali, Rwanda March 5, 2021. REUTERS/Jean Bizimana

Rwanda and Kenya have confirmed their first cases of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, authorities in both countries said, as the heavily mutated strain continues to spread on the continent where it was first detected.

On Tuesday Rwanda’s health ministry said the small central African country had detected six cases as it pushed for people to get vaccinated.

“All arriving passengers must quarantine for three days at a designated hotel at their own cost,” the cabinet of ministers said in a resolution on Tuesday, adding that it had suspended night club operations and live band entertainment.

In Kenya, Health Minister Mutahi Kagwe told a press conference in the coastal city of Mombasa that the country had also detected cases for the first time.

“I can confirm that we have detected the Omicron variant,” he said, adding they had confirmed only three cases so far.

Some 40% of the Rwandan population have received two vaccine doses and it has started issuing booster shots. It registered 50 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday with a positivity rate of 0.5%.

In Kenya the vaccination campaign has moved more slowly and the government had announced plans to introduce a vaccine mandate starting this month but a court on Tuesday suspended the move. read more

Authorities last month suspended direct flights to and from southern Africa due to the new variant.

Reporting by Clement Uwiringiyimana; Editing by Robert Birsel, Kirsten Donovan