New Covid variant, Omicron not yet in Uganda, says Minister Aceng

Coronavirus outbreak

The Health Minister, Dr.Jane Ruth Aceng has assured Ugandans that the new Covid variant known as Omicron has not yet been detected in Uganda.

"While Omicron variant has been reported in several  countries across the world, it is very important to note that this variant has not been detected in Uganda,"Aceng told journalists on Thursday.

She however explained that since its identification, the new variant has been detected and spread in all provinces of  South Africa,  Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Angola and Zambia in Africa  as well as Netherlands, Thailand, Israel, United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Italy, Belgium and Germany.

Aceng noted that with little known about the virus since its new, the only information known is that it has 32 mutations in the spike protein gene which is the coat of the virus which is more than that discovered earlier in other variants including the deadly Alpha and Delta variants.

"The World Health Organisation is coordinating with a large number of researchers around the world around the world to better understand Omicron," she noted.

She added that the studies by researchers will help assess the transmissibility of the virus, the severity of the infection, performance of currently available vaccines on the new variant, performance of the available Covid diagnostics tests and the effectiveness of treatment.

"More information will be available in the coming weeks and will be shared with the public. In the meantime, the Ministry of Health continues to closely  monitor the evolution of the spread of the Omicron variant globally,"Aceng said.

Interventions

The Health Minister said government has intensified efforts to ensure the new Covid variant is not imported into the country with intensified surveillance at entry points with much emphasis at high-volume entry points like Entebbe International Airport.

She noted there is intensified surveillance at high volume land border points like Malaba, Busia, Mpondwe,Mutukula, Elegu and Katuna.

“To-date, 48,259 samples have been tested with 228 positive cases recorded. On average, six positive cases are recorded daily,” she revealed.

Aceng revealed that testing of all incoming travelers at other land entry points will be conducted by private laboratories at government set rates as the latter continues to build capacity for testing.

“Persons who test positive shall be tracked and put under home based care or health facilitated based isolation depending on the severity of the disease. Symptomatic cases requiring admission shall be managed at designated Covid-19 treatment units. All positive samples from travellers shall undergo genomic sequencing to enable detection of the Omicron and other variants,” Aceng noted

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