A month since first Covid-19 case, Uganda appears to be on the path to success

Coronavirus outbreak

On Saturday, March 21, 2020, Minister of Health Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng held a press conference and announced that Uganda had confirmed her first case of the Coronavirus.

The confirmed case according to Dr. Aceng was of a Ugandan national aged 36 who had travelled back into the country from Dubai, United Arab Emirates at 2:00 am that morning aboard Ethiopian Airlines.

Earlier on in the day, President Museveni had just held his second national address on the COVID-19 situation in Uganda where he had placed a ban on passenger planes and all human movement from entering or leaving the country with effect from Sunday, March 22, 2020.

Only cargo planes and trucks were to be allowed.

Shortly, drama ensued as six Chinese nationals escaped from quarantine only to be arrested hours later in Zombo.

Their passports were confiscated and preparations to charge them in the Courts of law were underway when two of them tested positive for COVID-19 and the court sessions were suspended.

On March 23, 2020, samples from thirty-five people were tested for COVID-19 at the Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) and eight of them tested positive, pushing the national tally to nine.

All March 2020 returnees from Dubai, UAE were asked to go for testing at Ward 2A, Mulago Hospital of testing and 574 people were earmarked.

Daily testing became the new normal and a month later, the national cumulative total of confirmed cases stands at 56 with 38 recoveries and no deaths.

According to Minister Aceng, all the 18 active cases are also in a stable condition, staring at recovery.

To date, Uganda has tested 13,623 people, including truck drivers who continue to bring in cargo from the neighboring Kenya and Tanzania.

By April 16, 2020, at least 1,395 contacts to confirmed cases had been listed and 1,079 of them had completed the mandatory fourteen-day follow up period.

So far so good for Uganda

With a seventy percent recovery rate as the number of people who have recovered from the COVID-19 surpassed that of active cases on Monday, Uganda stands in a better position compared to other countries in the region.

President Museveni announced the extension of the lockdown by three more weeks.

Neighbouring Kenya which confirmed its first case of COVID-19 on March 13, 2020 has now registered 281 of them with 14 deaths and 69 recoveries.

Tanzania, as of April 20, is currently counting 254 positive cases with 10 ten deaths and 11 recoveries.

In her address to the country on Saturday, Minister Aceng partly contributed this success to the early response from government to combat the spread of the virus.

Dr. Aceng said that if it wasn’t for the swift measures, the situation could have been worse and the country would have recorded many cases and possible deaths.

“When the numbers of exposed and infected individuals grow so fast, the stress on the system is huge and the system cannot cope with it,” Aceng said.

The country is currently counting day seven of the twenty-one days of extended lockdown that President Museveni declared last week at the end of the first fourteen days that Uganda had completed earlier.

In her speech on April 18, Dr Aceng said that the lockdown has enabled the Ministry of Health to manage the confirmed cases, follow up on contacts and alerts, screening and testing of cargo transporters among other achievements.

What will the next month look like?

With the on-going lockdown running until May 5, 2020, what happens between now and the end of the next fourteen days will determine the direction that the country will take.

According to Dr. Aceng, government is using the lockdown extension to screen cargo transporters, routinely test all the health workers at the front line and enhance risk communication to ensure that the country is free of all pockets of transmission.

“The ministry will carry out a rapid assessment survey focusing on previously known forces of transmission and points of congregation of trucks,” Aceng said.

Officials at the Ministry of Health warned that it is too early to determine if the country has really succeeded at defeating COVID-19 as any reluctance now may have severe impacts on the COVID-19 curve in the country.

Travellers might also have to wait a little longer according Dr. Diana Atwine, the permanent secretary at the ministry of Health.

“Opening the airport and borders means we are inviting a different cohort of infections. We do not have the resources to handle this. I do not think we are reopening the borders soon,” Dr. Atwine said.

After effects of covid19 to Uganda

Economists have projected doom for the economy post Covid-19 if the government doesn’t put in place measures to keep the economy in constant flow even as the country tries to combat the virus.

Economist Ramathan Ggobi said that almost fifty percent of Uganda’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is generated by face-to-face interactions and the lockdown means that this has been put to a halt with the interruptions on supply chains.

Although Ggobi accepts that it is too early to measure a recession, he believes that the GDP will be greatly affected.

“We cannot measure a recession now. About six percent of activities that lead to the Ugandan economy have been interrupted. This will affect the GDP from the projected six percent to four percent,” Ggobi said.

The Nile Post has established that two papers written to kick start the government’s economic stimulus response will be presented to President Museveni this week.

Silver Lining

According to Dr. Atwine, every dark cloud bares a silver lining. Atwine projects that post Covid-19, we are likely to see a reduction in diseases that are caused by poor hygiene.

“The good thing about the COVID-19 is that now the hygiene is becoming a priority. People are washing hands and we shall see a reduction of cases like diarrhea, Tuberculosis and Flu.”

Atwine said the health care systems in the country with also benefit from the pandemic.

Uganda has a good record of combating viral epidemics owing to its success in eliminating and containing the Ebola outbreak earlier.

The World Health Organization's Dr. Margret Harris while appearing on CGTN's The Agenda Today show earlier this month mentioned Uganda as an example of countries in the world that quickly responded to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Reader's Comments