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Seven deaths in UK among AstraZeneca jab recipients after blood clots

This picture shows vials of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine and a syringe in Paris on March 11, 2021

The UK medical regulator said Saturday that out of 30 people who suffered blood clots after receiving the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, seven have died. The British acknowledgement of deaths comes as several European countries have paused the use of the AstraZeneca jab over a potential link to blood clots.

The UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency said in a statement that “Out of the 30 reports up to and including 24 March, sadly 7 have died.” The Netherlands on Friday halted vaccinations with the AstraZeneca jab for people under the age of 60 after five new cases among women, one of whom died.

Germany took a similar decision earlier this week. The European Medicines Agency (EMA), which like the World Health Organization previously declared the AstraZeneca vaccine safe, is expected to announce updated advice on the issue on April 7. The EMA said again on Wednesday it believes the vaccine is safe and that experts have found no specific risk factors such as age, gender or medical history.

The UK regulator said that the 30 reports of thrombosis, submitted by medics or members of the public via a government website, came after 18.1 million doses of the vaccine had been administered in the country. Most of the cases (22) were cerebral venous sinus thrombosis, a rare condition when a blood clot forms in the brain. Eight other cases saw people suffer thrombosis and low levels of blood platelets, which help blood clot.

There were no reports of blood clots from the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine it said, adding that “our thorough review into these reports is ongoing.” The regulator’s website says that on the basis of current data, the benefits of the vaccines against Covid-19 “continue to outweigh any risks”.

AstraZeneca said last month following US efficiency trials that its vaccine is 79 percent effective at preventing the disease and does not increase the risk of blood clots. The UK has administered more than 31 million first vaccine doses, using both the Oxford-AstraZeneca and the Pfizer-BioNTech jabs. People cannot choose which one they get. The UK in June 2020 ordered 100 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and supported its development. It also ordered 30 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine the same year. – By AFP

British soldiers burn their way to infamy

Deep in the heart of the Laikipia and Samburu plateaus, an expansive grassland dotted with acacia and euphorbia trees, is a military base where hundreds of British soldiers come to improve their tactical combat skills every year.

Troops under the British Army Training Unit in Kenya (Batuk) consider the sweltering rough terrain in this region ideal for military training. Under the Defence Co-operation Agreement (DCA) with the Kenyan government, up to six infantry battalions carry out eight-week exercises in Kenya every year.

But in these plains, some in private ranches where rifle fire persistently crackles and mortar explosions are normal, the British war games have had a terrible impact on society, wildlife and environmental conservation.

Although Batuk has been credited with training Kenya Defence Forces troops, gifting military equipment and operational assistance, as well community health and sanitation projects, it has in the past been linked to cases of rape and child abandonment. The unit has also been accused of leaving unexploded arsenal in the fields.

The most recent case relates to a fire that started during a soldiers’ training last week that destroyed some 12,000 acres of the pristine Lolldaiga nature conservancy in Laikipia County.

Although the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) in a statement said no elephants were killed in the three-day fire, Lolldaiga is home to more than 400 species of birds as well as mammals such as the rare Grevy’s zebra, leopards and wild dogs.

British soldiers who were training in the conservancy are said to have started the fire on March 24, with the UK government seemingly admitting liability for the tragedy.

The British High Commission has, however, said investigations into the actual cause of the fire are underway.

British troops and employees of Lolldaiga Conservancy battled the inferno for more than four days, only managing to put it out last Sunday.

A preliminary assessment of the damage by KWS shows almost a quarter of the conservancy, which is 49,000 acres, was damaged in the fire.

And a social media post by one of the British Army soldiers seemingly bragging about killing an elephant in an earlier fire remains the subject of investigations by the British military police.

“I am utterly appalled. I think that is outrageous and am very disappointed that a British soldier would post that. It is being investigated,” British High Commissioner to Kenya Jane Marriott said last week.

Restoration could be done either through natural regeneration or by replanting trees on the 12,000-acre section.

On Monday, an environmental lobby group sued the British Army and the management of Lolldaiga Conservancy over the wildfire that damaged 12,000 acres of Loldaiga Hills in Laikipia County.

The African Centre for Corrective and Preventive Action wants Batuk and Loldaiga Conservancy compelled to compensate surrounding communities for environmental damages caused by the fire.

In a petition filed at the Environment and Land Court in Nyeri, the lobby group also wants Batuk and its commanding officer as well as the conservancy to bear the responsibility of restoring the 12,000 acres of bushland that was destroyed.

The lobby group has accused the parties of failing to put in place measures to prevent fires as the British troops take part in training on Lolldaiga Hills, consequently endangering wildlife in the conservancy.

The lobby further argues that the fire resulted in tonnes of carbon emissions, which are likely to cause irreparable damage to the ozone layer.

“As a result of the respondents’ actions, millions of tonnes of carbon emissions have been released into the ozone layer, which are likely to cause irreparable loss and damage to the environment,” the petition read in part.

At the same time, the lobby group is demanding that the British Army and Lolldaiga Conservancy should compensate any beneficiary of the hills as well as any victim of pollution caused by the fire, including residents of the surrounding settlements. –

Capitol Police officer killed, another injured after suspect rams car into police

(CNN) – One US Capitol Police officer has died and another is injured after a suspect rammed a vehicle into a police barricade outside the Capitol building Friday afternoon, acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman told reporters.

Pittman said the suspect in the attack has also died. The suspect was not on the radar of the US Capitol Police before the attack, but the attack does not appear to be terrorism-related, police said in an afternoon briefing.
Pittman added that the scene is still being processed, and the investigation is ongoing. The DC Metropolitan Police said there is no indication of an ongoing threat. Pittman said she will not release the name of the officer until the officer’s family is notified.
A senior congressional aide and a US Capitol Police source told CNN that after the driver of the vehicle rammed his car into a barricade on Constitution Avenue, the driver exited the vehicle brandishing a knife. USCP responded, shooting the suspect and taking him into custody.

An email from the US Capitol Police, obtained by CNN, confirmed that sequence of events. The email stated Capitol Police officers shot the suspect after he rammed the barricade and exited holding a knife.
A law enforcement official told CNN at least one of the officers was stabbed.
“(US Capitol Police) is responding to the North Barricade vehicle access point along (Constitution) Avenue for reports someone rammed a vehicle into two USCP officers. A suspect is in custody. Both officers are injured. All three have been transported to the hospital,” USCP said in a tweet Friday.

CNN has confirmed that the FBI Washington Field Office is providing support to the Capitol Police.
The incident comes as the security situation on Capitol Hill remains top of mind for many lawmakers despite a recent ramping down of some additional protective measures that were put into place after the January 6 insurrection.

Barbed wire fencing that surrounded the Capitol complex for months after pro-Trump rioters stormed the building has since come down and thousands of the National Guard troops who were deployed in response to the insurrection have since returned home, though thousands still remain in Washington due to lingering security concerns.
The National Guard was seen responding to Friday’s attack, and later confirmed it had been deployed to the Capitol.

“The DC National Guard deployed a Immediate Response Force (IRF) composed of National Guard soldiers and airmen to the Capitol complex this afternoon to support the U.S. Capitol Police. Due to operational security, we cannot discuss further details regarding the IRF,” the National Guard said in a tweet.

“No National Guard members were injured in the incident at the Capitol. Currently, approximately 2,300 National Guard members are in DC supporting local, state, and federal authorities in DC,” it added.
The long-term security posture at the Capitol has also become a topic of increasing debate in recent weeks as congressional committees continue to move forward with their investigations into failures around the January 6 attack. –

British government to ban travellers from Kenya from entering its territory

After abrupt ban on Kenyan arrivals, UK tries to soothe angry Nairobi – Unused check-in desks at Heathrow airport Terminal 5 in west London on September 9, 2019.

A decision by the British government to ban travellers from Kenya from entering its territory, to tame Covid-19 cases, is eliciting anger among Kenyans, with many terming it discriminatory. But London argues “scientific evidence” based on tests, which showed a rise in positive cases among arriving passengers from Nairobi.

More than 30 per cent of the cases were new variants of the virus first detected in South Africa, the UK claims. Sources told the Nation on Friday that UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab will seek to explain the stance to Kenyan diplomats, but will not rescind the decision meant to “protect public health”.

Deadlier variant
According to the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and development Office (FCDO), a significant number of arrivals from Nairobi have tested positive, with nearly a third of the positive cases carrying the B.1.351 variant which originated from South Africa.

The indication may mean Kenya has not been strict on travellers from South Africa and other regions where the variant was detected. On Friday, the UK added Kenya, Philippines, Pakistan and Bangladesh on its ‘Red List’ of countries where arrivals are refused entry into the UK.

The directive means visitors who have either transited through or departed from Kenya in the past 10 days cannot enter the UK. It means all travellers, except nationals and residents, arriving from Nairobi will be turned away at the airport.

“From 0400 UK time on 9 April, visitors who have been in or transited through Kenya in the previous 10 days will be refused entry into England,” said an update from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. British, Irish and third world country nationals with residence rights arriving from these countries will be required to quarantine in a government-approved facility for 10 days.

Flights from these countries will not be banned but the restrictions mean only nationals of the UK and legal residents will be allowed into the UK, and will be forced to quarantine for 10 days, during which they will be compelled to take two tests of Covid-19. The UK demands testing on the second and eight days of quarantine. Those who test negative after 10 days will be allowed to leave the specified quarantined centres.

Retaliation unlikely

At least 500 people travel to the UK every week from Kenya, making it one of the most stable flight routes out of Nairobi. The ban by the UK ran counter to Kenya’s own decision last December when it resolved not to bar UK arrivals after a new variant of the virus was discovered in the UK.

Health minister Mutahi Kagwe said at the time available measures were sufficient to control infections. “We have very strict travel measures with the UK, which the US and the Europeans did not have. We are carefully observing every passenger travelling from there,” Mr Kagwe said, after 53 countries temporarily banned travellers from the UK.

“We will, therefore, make decisions based on scientific advice as well as any additional advice from WHO. We are not part of the EU (European Union).” With the new directive, it is still unlikely that Kenya could retaliate. But some Kenyans accused the UK of “medical racism”.

Of the 39 countries on the Red List, none is in Europe. Most are in Africa and Asia, with others in South America.“Once the US, UK and EU reach herd-immunity by June, it will close itself against Africa, Latin America, Middle East and Asia. It will be medical racism,” argued lawyer Donald Kipkorir.

Timing suspicious

Many of the citizens responding to the announced ban questioned the timing of the restrictions, days after British soldiers were accused of bringing in a new variant from the UK on their field training mission in Kenya.

The FCDO says, however, that the measures are only temporary and that a risk assessment will be done to review the restriction. “The travel restrictions will only remain in place whilst the level or risk is assessed to justify these measures,” the UK said.

It noted that several countries, including Portugal and Mauritius, have been removed from the Read List following heightened measures against the virus. The UK gave the example of increased genomic surveillance to reduce the risk posed by variants that have raised particular concern.

The UK initially required proof of a negative test to allow visitors into its territory, but it later created the Red List of countries considered high risk regions. Kenya had been spared the wrath, even as Tanzania, Rwanda, Ethiopia and Burundi and Somalia were listed. –

Family Bank defies Covid, posts rise in its earnings

UN Global Compact Kenya Network Executive Director Judy Njino (left) hands over the membership certificate to Family Bank CEO Rebecca Mbithi which will see Family Bank become the fourth bank in Kenya to officially join the United Nations.

Family Bank posted a 22.4 percent growth in net profits to Sh1.1 billion for the year ending December 2020 courtesy of increased lending despite the coronavirus scourge that hit business.

The lender posted Sh949 million the previous year but says it defied the Covid-19 pandemic by growing its loan book to Sh56.6 billion while supporting customers who saw opportunities despite the difficult year.

Targeted sectors in manufacturing, agribusiness, trade, logistics and technology saw the lender grow interest income from Sh7.1 billion in 2019 to Sh8.8 billion last year.

“Our loan book expanded by 11.8 percent year on year to close at Sh56.6 billion as we continued to support our customers who saw new opportunities despite the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Family Bank Chief Executive Officer Rebecca Mbithi.

Non-performing loans

Net interest income grew by Sh1.4 billion growth to Sh6.4 billion compared to Sh5 billion in a similar period in 2019. The bank’s operating expenses increased by to Sh7.6 billion from Sh6.3 billion mainly driven by loan loss provisions, which increased by more than 2.5 times from Sh734 million in 2019 to Sh1.62 billion in 2020. This was in response to Sh1.1 billion growth in non-performing loans to Sh9.3 billion as customers struggled to meet repayments during the difficult year. –

Alarm in Kenya as deadlier mutations of Covid-19 found in Tanzania

Scientists have discovered the most mutated variant of the Covid-19 virus in Tanzania, in what could portend trouble for Kenya, given these new variants are highly transmissible, and suspected to be resistant to some of the immune fighters. This comes as the country risks being added to the United Kingdom’s ‘red list’ of countries, from where travellers are subjected to mandatory quarantine, due to the government’s reluctance to close the border with Tanzania.

Tanzania travellers

The discovery of the mutant variant (temporarily named A.VOI.V2), in Tanzania travellers to Angola, not only puts the country’s Covid-19 mitigation measures at a crossroads, given that scientists suspect that the variant might be capable of reducing the immunity received from natural infection and vaccination.

A report submitted to the World Health Organisation (WHO) and regional agencies shows the strain is the most mutated, with 10 more mutations than found on any other version, according to Prof Tulio de Oliveira, director of Krisp, a scientific institute that carries out genetic testing for 10 African nations. Krisp also discovered the new strain in South Africa (501Y.V2) last year.

“We decided to report this as a new VOI, given the constellation of mutations with known or suspected biological significance, specifically resistance to neutralising antibodies and potentially increased transmissibility,” said Prof de Oliveira.

Some scientists have noted that the number of cases detected is not adequate to give a clear picture of whether the new variant is more transmissible, deadlier, or has the capability to reduce immunity.

In addition, the experts are not sure whether the version of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (Sars-CoV-2), the virus that causes Covid-19, originated from Tanzania or the travellers picked it up from other borders on the way to Angola. Further, given the fact that there is little data and information from Tanzania, it is not easy to pinpoint the exact situation.

“This means that a variant that is newly detected may or may not have emerged in the country where it was detected first,” explained Dr Moses Masika, a virologist at the University of Nairobi’s department of Medical Microbiology.

More variants

Even so, there is a likelihood that the variant could be circulating in Kenya, some experts believe, given the porous border the country shares with Tanzania. A variant is a form or version of a virus that differs in some respect from the original one.

“The study shows that we shall continue to see more and more variants of the virus for as long as we continue to see new infections. Each country that has active transmission will have known new variants. The only reason that only a handful of countries are reporting new variants is they are actively analysing the virus to detect such variants,” said Dr Masika.

When a virus replicates or makes copies of itself, it sometimes changes a bit, a common phenomenon for viruses. These changes are called “mutations”. A virus with one or more new mutations is referred to as a “variant” of the original virus. Since its discovery in December 2019, the Sars-CoV-2 virus has undergone multiple changes in its intrinsic nature.

Recently, however, the global scientific community has put the world on alert over the fast pace at which two distinct variants have been spreading. New research published in early March in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) found the coronavirus variant originating in the United Kingdom, called B.1.1.7, is substantially more deadly than the original strain of Sars-CoV-2.

The authors say the B.1.1.7 variant, which has become dominant in many parts of the world, has been found to be up to 70 per cent more transmissible and between 32 and 104 per cent deadlier. In some cases, some of the variants (B.1.351 first identified in South Africa) have been found to lower vaccine efficacy.


According to experts, one reason Sars-CoV-2 virus is developing variants is that relatively few people globally have been vaccinated. However, Dr Ahmed Ogwell, the deputy director of Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (AfricaCDC) explained that the mutations that are of concern to scientists are those that make a variant more transmissible or causes more serious illness.

“If a mutation doesn’t do any of these, then it’s a variant to be observed, but not a variant of concern. For now, we are studying the variant,” said Dr Ogwell in a recent interview with NTV.

In Kenya, at least 20 variants have been found to be circulating, with four having been discovered in March last year. Speaking yesterday, Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe said although the South African and UK variants have been identified in Kenya, the third peak is being fuelled by a dominant lineage known as B.1, which has been the predominant in the country.

The discovery now puts the country on high alert, given the free movement of people across porous borders. Kenya is currently battling a third wave of Covid-19 infections, which has seen the number of cases and fatalities go up sharply.

Lockdown in infected zone

Last Friday, President Uhuru Kenyatta reintroduced lockdown in five counties — Nairobi, Kiambu, Machakos, Nakuru and Kajiado. The latter shares a border with Tanzania along with Kwale, Taita Tateva, Narok and Migori counties. The country has also witnessed increased hospitalisations, which President Kenyatta said was alarming.

The discovery of the new variants in Tanzania, coupled with the latest restrictions in Nairobi, now leaves Kenya exposed, with a decision by the UK on a review of its red list expected later this week. The UK took the decision to put countries on the list in a bid to limit the spread of the Covid-19 variants, which it says will “undermine its vaccination campaign”. Last week, UK’s Telegraph newspaper, quoting a source at the British High Commission in Nairobi, said Kenya was likely to be added to the red list this week.

The country has been hesitant to restrict movement on the Tanzania border, fearing retaliation by Dar es Salaam. With South Africa, Ethiopia, Qatar, and UAE already on the red list, Nairobi has been the last major hub for connecting flights into the UK. Ethiopia, Oman, Qatar, and Somalia were added to list on Friday March 19, and a review, with possible additions is expected any time this week. Currently, the UK has banned entry from more than 20 countries including Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, South Africa, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. –

The foods you should eat to cool down in hot weather

These foods may help you during hot temperatures (Picture: Getty)

Hot, isn’t it? Many of us have been thinking the same thing over the past few days; who put the UK in a furnace? There’s only so many showers one can take in a day (and so long one can sit in front of a fan). To deal with the heatwave we’ve been experiencing lately, it’s worth making sure you’re eating the right food and drinking plenty of water. There are some foods that are better at keeping you cooler than others. While you might think an ice cream or two might do the trick, cold snacks might not be the answer to keeping cooler. Even though ice creams and lollies have a temporary cooling effect, eating food leads to an increase in temperature as the process of digestion is heat-generating. The fact that cold snacks and drinks make your body over-compensate by increasing your core temperature means that ice creams and slushies are not the answer to keeping you cooler for the duration of the day.

The answer to keeping cool is eating food that raises your core body temperature, so while it may sound counterproductive, things like warm drinks and soups can do the trick. Meals that are rich in fluids are good ways to not only keep the body hydrated, but also to keep it from feeling too hot. According to the UK Eatwell Guide, you should be drinking about six to eight glasses of water or other hydrating liquid. But beware of natural sugars in juices and drinks that have a diuretic effect such as coffee and alcohol which makes you lose fluids. You can opt for food that also have higher fluid content such as strawberries, melons, cucumbers, lettuce and celery. Yoghurts are also good at retaining water so be sure to add some to your meals. While soups and stews are thought of as wintery meals, they are great fluid-rich meals you can eat to inspire the body to be cooler in the long run.

Hot weather may make you want to choose iced teas and coffees over their hot counterparts but warm drinks are better for you in balmy temperatures. This is because once consumed, they raise your body’s core temperature, which makes the body want to cool down which it does through sweating. Sweating has a cooling effect. And yes, that includes spicy meals. Eating a chilli-rich meal might not sound ideal but it inspires the body to sweat which will help it feel cooler. So go forth and add these items to your shopping list. –