The state of #Covid19 in East Africa: cases on the rise

CAPTION: A newspaper seller wears a mask as a preventive measure against the Covid-19 Coronavirus on a empty street in Kigali on March 22,

CAPTION: A newspaper seller wears a mask as a preventive measure against the Covid-19 Coronavirus on a empty street in Kigali on March 22, 2020 after the government suspended all unnecessary movements for two weeks to curb the spread of the virus. PHOTO | SIMON WOHLFAHRT | AFP 

Kampala 3rd April 2020. The total number of positive coronavirus cases in Uganda now stands at 48. This follows three new cases – all imported.

Compared to other East African countries, Uganda is third in terms of the registered cases. In South Sudan, two people have already succumbed to the virus. South Sudan has the highest case death rate at 20%, followed by Tanzania at 5% and Kenya at 3.3%. No death yet from the virus in Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi.

The global case mortality rate from coronavirus stands at 5.36%. Globally, the total number of people infected with the virus is 1,099,389 as of this writing, of which 58,901 have died. However, there is a belief that some countries are not reporting the true scale of the problem to minimize the perceived risks to the economy, among others. Given the world population at about 7.78 billion, this represents just 0.01% of people infected with coronavirus as of 3rd April 2020.

Table 1: Covid19 cases in East Africa

Why is covid19 a pandemic?

With global case mortality of 58,901, against 7.78 billion people, why is #covid19 so disruptive? Why did the World Health Organisation declare the virus a pandemic? Is it the anticipated people likely to die from this virus before a vaccine is found?

The problem with #covid19 is that it spreads fast. It appears scientists are not yet sure exactly how the virus spreads. Is it only through direct contact with an infected person? Or the virus is airborne. We have been told that the virus is too heavy to float in the air and move beyond one meter. Hence the case for social distancing by keeping one meter away from other people as well as other measures like total lockdown and the night curfews – where people are not allowed to move at night whatsoever to minimize the risk of contact.

#covid19 is a pandemic because it overwhelms health systems and makes people helpless. Unlike other diseases with a long gestation period, healthcare providers can plan for patient visits and appointments with doctors.

Not with covid19.

Suddenly, you have so many people needing specialized care for which there are no facilities to accommodate all. A choice must be made who to let die and who to put in the intensive care and attend to.

This kind of decision is not easy to live with. Any health professional must save lives. It is heart-wrenching seeing people die helplessly.

The cases in East Africa continue to raise. This is worrisome considering poorly developed health facilities. Now is the time to plan for the emergency incase the covid19 cases suddenly increased. Considering many patients are asymptomatic – meaning that they may not show any symptoms as they spread the virus – the government must not relent or relax the rules. Prevention is better than cure. No crisis is worse than a health one where many people are looking for help but cannot find one.

It is good news that the Government of Uganda has continued to plan for the worst-case scenario – by establishing a specialized health facility at the army headquarters with a capacity of over 50 beds of which seven are for specialized cases.

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