July 24, 2020 / 7:42 AM / 10 days ago

Kenya COVID-19 hospital gears up for surge in new infections

MACHAKOS, Kenya (Reuters) - At the Machakos COVID-19 field hospital about an hour’s drive from the Kenyan capital, workers struggle to put a giant metal tent frame in place to serve as a new ward.

COVID-19 patients rest on their beds inside a field hospital built on a soccer stadium in Machakos, as the number of confirmed coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases continues to rise in Kenya, July 23, 2020. Picture taken July 23, 2020.REUTERS/Baz Ratner

Machakos county, which has 92 active cases of the virus, has already met the required minimum of 300 beds per county for COVID-19 patients, set by the national government.

But as national figures surge, Machakos is preparing for more infections. Positive cases in Kenya have nearly doubled in the last two weeks to 15,601, mirroring a continental surge. Africa topped 750,000 cases on Wednesday.

“When you see such numbers coming up that fast, you get worried,” said David Mutunga, an official in the Machakos county’s department of health emergency services.

“Before those numbers go out of hand, we are racing against time to ensure we have adequate capacity.”

The Machakos field hospital, set in a sports stadium whose stands serve as waiting bays for incoming patients before they are screened, features two large white tents on carpeted concrete slabs.

The two operational tents are together equipped with 200 beds. The new tent will have a capacity of 40, bringing the county’s total for COVID patients to 475 beds when other facilities are included.

“It is a cost-effective way of setting up the facility. It is easy on the budget,” Mutunga said.

Patients needing critical care are housed at a nearby hospital. There were 11 in the intensive care unit of the facility when Reuters visited on Thursday.

It is not just officials in Machakos who are concerned by the rise in cases in Kenya and beyond.

President Uhuru Kenyatta, who opened movement into and out of Nairobi earlier this month and lifted a ban on international commercial passenger flights from Aug. 1, has summoned top national and local government officials to a meeting on Monday, to discuss what to do about the recent surge.

Writing by Duncan Miriri; Editing by Giles Elgood

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