Since the first Covid-19 positive case was reported on March 13, 2020, marking the onset of the pandemic in Kenya, the Ministry of Health has efforted to provide daily statistics of the virus' toll in the country.
However, little is known of the hardworking men and women, who put up long hours of work to piece together the numerous files and reports from all corners of the country before they are delivered to us by Health Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe, Chief Administrative Secretaries Rashid Aman and Mercy Mwangangi, and acting Director-General Patrick Amoth.
These experts along with crunching the numbers, advice the ministry on the proper containment measures in the fight against the Covid-19 virus.
Dr. Loyce Ombajo, an infectious disease expert, Professor Thumbi Mwangi, an epidemiologist, analyse the Covid-19 numbers as passed on to them from counties and inform MoH on the proper cause of action.
Computer scientist, Dr. Shikoh Gitau leads a team of data analysts in assembling the raw Covid numbers as submitted by counties.
These experts work hand in hand with DG Amoth in analysing the numbers and establishing scientific evidence that informs the daily briefs as announced by the CS and CASs.
“Our work involves breaking down complex biological systems of the virus as a mutant and people, as human beings, with their different characteristics, and how they get affected by the virus,” DR. Thumbi said.
He revealed this while speaking during the launch of the Centre for Epidemiological Modelling and Analysis (CEMA) at the University of Nairobi’s College of Health Sciences located at Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) yesterday, June 9, 2021.
The event was attended by Education CS George Magoha, one of the brains behind the UON’s College of Health Sciences, Dr. Amoth and ICT CAS Maureen Mbaka.
“Data drives decisions. At CEMA, we are committed to achieving the precisions of science that enable data-driven decision-making from the accuracy of results obtained to accelerate the attainment of public health,” he added.
Dr. Thumbi, a co-founder of CEMA stated that the team focus on what Covid-19 projections look like heading into the future.
“For Covid-19, we receive data on positive cases but also for people who tested negative.
“So what you don’t see normally are the absolute numbers which do not match the data of positivity rates,” Dr. Thumbi explained.
He stated that the studies the data to establish patterns out of the positive and negative outcomes of the sample tests in order to ascertain important parameters.
“The idea is to try and simplify the very complex biological systems. The virus has interesting behaviours in itself, and people also have interesting behaviours in themselves. Subsequently, we try to identify three key drivers, then we take them to simplify what is complex, in order to help us make projections of what’s going to happen,” he said.
Their projections were key in informing the government's decision to prepare and safeguard Kenyans from a surge in Covid cases in March 2020.
“We projected 1,000 positive cases from data we analysed and this made Kenyans take the health protocols seriously,” he revealed.
Dr. Ombajo assured Kenyans that the current numbers do not project the need for an imminent lockdown or cessation of movement, but urged the public to stay vigilant.
“Staying ahead of the Covid-19 pandemic means having real-time data to make decisions,” she said.
The University of Nairobi senior lecturer and head of Infectious Disease Unit at KNH revealed that CEMA will serve as a catalogue where data collected from various areas will be used to understand diseases and their impact.
“We are always on call, even up to very late into the night, to clarify and put to order data we receive from the counties,” Dr. Ombajo who is also a co-founder of CEMA stated.