COVID-19

The state of #covid19 in Uganda: My take on the President’s address

Kampala: 28th April 2020 – President Museveni made yet another Presidential Address on the state of #covid19. Below are the highlights.

  1. The coronavirus pandemic is real. To prevent the spread of the virus in Uganda, several measures were put in place nationwide. About 2,000 people who defied the directives have been arrested to date, thanks to the vigilance of the security forces.
  2. Coronavirus confirmed cases are 79 in Uganda. 52 Ugandans, and 27 foreigners, the majority of whom are Tanzanians at 13, and nine Kenyans. Now, the situation is under control. As of today, a total of 12,390 people tested in Uganda are negative.
  3. The President reminded the nation, the #covid19 control measures owing to the contagious nature of the disease, specifically social distancing and observing basic hygiene.
  4. The current lockdown ends on May 6th, 2020. Currently, a study is underway to inform the next course of action. Now, the main source of infection is by the long-distance truck drivers. We cannot stop cargo since such would be suicidal as we must continue imports and exports, the president said.
  5. The lockdown excluded essential services that had to continue. There are 1. (i) Farming – not easily susceptible to the spread of the virus. (ii) “Factories and construction sites could continue operating – as long as they house their workers at the factory”, and (iii) Essential services – hospitals, water generation, telecommunications, and of course (iv) Cargo. New cases are by cargo drivers. Going forward, only one occupant – the driver– shall be allowed in the cargo trucks as opposed to the earlier three.
  6. Revealed collaboration with other regional leaders on “mobile quarantine”, where truck occupants can be controlled while on the move, as well as being tested frequently.
  7. That the economy shall recover, despite a hard hit on Tourism.
  8. Strong families make a strong economy. President said he was happy with the time for families to get together and bond with the children. And that issues of the parents should not affect the children.
  9. And on specifically on the issue of lifting the lockdown, He said:

The World Health Organisation (WHO) country representative Dr. Yonas Tegegn listed six areas a nation must consider before lifting the lockdown; and these are:

i) The transmission should be controlled – if it is still there
ii) The health system capacity is in place to detect, test, isolate and treat every case
iii) Outbreak risks are minimized in special settings like health facilities, nursing homes and among vulnerable groups
iv) Preventive measures are in place in workplaces, school and other places where people need to go
v) Importation risk can be managed e.g. testing of incoming cargo transporters, like what is happening now at border points
vi) Communities are fully educated, engaged, and empowered to adjust to this new norm.

With those insights, the President ended his address.

My take:

  1. New local infections have been managed. However, without mass testing capabilities, the government is yet to know the extent of the problem. Thus far, the cumulative number of people who have been tested are 29,832. Only people assessed as high risk have been tested. However, considering the population at risk of over 4m people in Kampala and surrounding areas, the total tests conducted are few. Accordingly, the best strategy is to wait and see how it unravels.
  2. No detailed analysis of the extent of the impact or contacts the Truck drivers could have made along their long routes in the country. The new cases are a cause for worry. The government is taking the last week of the lockdown to assess the extent of the problem by a team that is doing the study.
  3. The social distancing measures including the lockdown have delivered results. The virus has been held at bay. The fact that now fatal case yet attributed to the coronavirus confirmed cases, means the covid19 pandemic can be managed if the health system is not overwhelmed with many cases.
  4. The coronavirus seems to have helped ease the tension between Uganda and Rwanda, as the President disclosed speaking to his Rwandan counterpart.
  5. There could be cases in Uganda that are yet to be confirmed due to slow follow-ups or limited capacity to test ALL suspected cases. Or for some cases, the government does not know for sure, and the only way forward is to isolate, wait and see just as the president used to do in the bush – when you suspected something, “stand, don’t move, don’t talk, listen. When you do that you can take note of what is around you.” The wait and see game shall help the government know the potent cases, as we buy time of the virus’s incubation period.
  6. Based on the WHO guidelines to re-open the economy, Uganda is still at risk.
  7. The fact is the country cannot continue the lockdown considering that the coronavirus is still with us until a vaccine or cure is found, which could be sometime in May 2021!
  8. Come to the next Presidential Address of the nation, the lockdown restrictions shall be eased gradually. I see businesses being allowed to open subject to social distancing measures and stringent controls concerning personal hygiene and disinfection.

For now, stay home. Stay safe.

Copyright Mustapha B Mugisa, 2020. All rights reserved.

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