Figures issued by the Ministry of Health (MoH) on a daily basis may not be a true representation of actual infections, doctors have warned.

This, they say, is because of increased backlog and delays in sample testing, a situation medics see rendering the ‘test, trace and isolate’ exercise futile.

As it is, Kenya is yet to meet its target of testing one million people as the cumulative samples tested so far still fall short of 400,00.

With just over 335,000 samples tested so far, 24,411 people have been confirmed positive.

Concern

In the update issued yesterday, Health Chief Administrative Secretary Rashid Aman said Kenya recorded 538 new Covid-19 cases from tests carried out in the past 24 hours.

However, medics say, this number may not be representative of the actual daily rate of community infections among Kenyans owing to delays in testing.

“We recommend rapid review of results where best practice is 24-48 hours as opposed to now where it is 5 to 10 days,” said Dr Elizabeth Gitau, CEO Kenya Medical Association (KMA).

With this backlog, it is unclear what the Ministry of Health refers to when figures announced are tagged as being “in the last 24 hours”, especially since some medics have noted that their patients’ Covid-19 results take up to 14 days to release.

“I am in Kiambu. We take our samples to Kemri and the turnaround time is usually one to two weeks,” said a doctor who requested anonymity during a virtual webinar hosted by KMA recently.

This delay, they say, is brewing conflict between medics and patients’ families, especially deceased patients incurring mortuary bills as their kin wait for results.

The hold up, they say, could also be contributing to high cases of infection due to late isolation of people carrying the virus.

Problem is, while they wait, many Kenyans go about their daily business and in the process spread the virus.

The trend is worrying since timely, accurate test results are vital in informing whether individuals need to be isolated under home-based care or hospitalised for close monitoring by doctors.

On its part, the Health Ministry in its daily Covid-19 Situation Reports acknowledges the long turnaround for relaying laboratory results as a key challenge that delays public health action.

MoH says it plans to “strengthen Covid-19 diagnostic quality assurance.”