By Dan Ayebare
Residents of Kondogolo zone, Kulambiro in Nakawa division spent Monday night in panic after they learnt that one of their village mates, a one Andrew Mwesigwa who had been working in Dubai, UAE for the last couple of years and arrived on Sunday, March 22nd.
The panic has been caused by the announcement of the Health minister, Dr Jane Ruth Aceng that called upon all members of public who had traveled from Dubai, in the last two weeks to re-appear for testing and screening, while addressing the country on Uganda’s first Covid 19 case. The patient had traveled to Dubai and returned.
“While on a night patrol to enforce the presidents’ directive of closing bars, police were tipped off that Mwesigwa arrived in Kondogolo on Sunday afternoon,” said Patrick Kasibante, Chairman LC 1 Kondogolo zone.
Local defence unit and the village defence council swung in action and pitched camp outside Mwesigwa’s home to ensure no movement and to protect his family from residents who had turned rowdy.
The bigger worry amidst this, however, was the failure to reach the Ministry of Health emergency numbers that were provided to the public. Chairman LC1 claims he called the numbers from 9pm on Monday night. After finally reaching one of the numbers, the receiver claimed there was an urgent meeting going on. “A gentleman on the line said there was an emergency meeting going on, so he didn’t help,’ Kasibante says.
A health team arrived at around 9:30 am on Tuesday, according to Patrick Kasibante, chairman. Mwesigwa’s wife and children were left behind according to Chairman Kasibante, and Mwesigwa picked from his house then driven to Entebbe Grade B hospital where we are told, he has been to date.
However, to fuel further panic, his wife and two children who he spent with close to more than 24 hours were left behind and no quarantine measures were put in place. In the event that Mwesigwa is infected, it is advised to immediately quarantine the people he has been in close contact with.
His family says, Mwesigwa is still quarantined in a room with four others, yet their Covid-19 status is still unknown. This increases the risk to not just the people he’s quarantined with, by also himself too. The panic waves have not only been felt by the community, but also his family and relatives who are worried for the risks he is exposed to. Our efforts to reach him to confirm the claim that he is quarantined with four others, have remained futile as he didn’t pick his phone.
Ministry of Health in the wake of the said complaints from the public released a statement on their website on Wednesday 25th to address the alleged hotline unreliability. It partly reads as below: “Following the declaration of the COVID 19 outbreak in Uganda, our toll free lines have been heavily congested and most callers are not able to get quick assistance. (In the wake of this) we have increased the capacity of our call centre to handle more calls at the same time effective this evening )Wednesday). The number of call centre agents have been increased from 20 to 100 and will continue to work in shifts for 24 hours every day. We would like to reiterate that the public is encouraged to call the Ministry of Health on 0800-100-066, 0800-203-033 0r 0800-303-033 to enable our surveillance teams assist you.”
The new numbers was however published on the same afternoon that the Director General Health Services, Dr.Henry Mwebesa who announced 5 new cases of COVID-19, leaving the total cases confirmed so far at 14.