Uganda: Scientists Ask Govt to Change Strategy As Covid-19 Cases Rise

With 1,603 confirmed cases and 15 deaths recorded as of yesterday, Covid-19 is tightening its grip on the country and causing more suffering.

Data from the Health Ministry shows that cases of Covid-19 community infections are soaring from the eight cases as of May 6 to the current total of 797.

Majority of the cases have been reported in Kampala Metropolitan area and districts of Amuru, Kyotera, Tororo, Buikwe, and Namisindwa. And of the 15 deaths in the country, Kampala has contributed 12.

The scientists advising the government on Covid-19 have attributed the sharp rise in community infections to an ineffective communication strategy, distrust, the challenge in balancing safety with livelihood and hardship in tracing contacts.

The scientists say the fight against the pandemic is also being made harder by political polarity among the populace as some politicians fan the false information that the cases and deaths being reported are simply set-ups by the Ministry of Health.

Dr Misaki Wayengera, the chairperson of the Ministerial Scientific Advisory Committee on Covid-19, in a letter sent to Daily Monitor yesterday warned that the country is failing in the entire response. "[Most] Ugandans still consider themselves invisible to this "flu-like illness", as historically flue has never been a serious disease of the mostly youthful and versatile age-group, except for a few infants and old people," he said in the letter.

Among the 15 deaths recorded, one of them was a 27-year-old man who had no underlying health complications, according to from the Health ministry. "While it might be true that severe Covid-19 disease occurs among mostly the vulnerable elderly or people with other underlying health complications, our changing sedentary lifestyle points to an increasing burden of undetected non communicable diseases among the young population of sub-Saharan Africa [where Uganda is part]," Dr Misaki said.

Dr Richard Walyomo, the KCCA head of the Covid-19 surveillance team, said the growing habit of avoiding contact tracers is leading to more infections.

"The challenge is with the contacts of Covid-19 patients. If you call them, they don't want to direct you where they are and even if you explain why you are calling them, they switch off their phone," he said.

Dr Benard Lubwama, an epidemiologist at the Ministry of Health, referring to the family of the 80-year-old who succumbed to Covid-19 on July 25, said they hit a dead end when the members closed their doors and denied the surveillance team access to carry out contact tracing.

Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, the Health minister, last Thursday said more people are migrating to Kampala in search of survival. Covid-19 has caused massive job losses and the failure of businesses across the country.

Dr Ramathan Ggoobi, an economist at Makerere University Business Schools, said striking the balance between ensuring that livelihood is not disrupted during the pandemic, and waging a successful war against Covid-19 will be a tough job for personnel in the frontline of the response.

Dr Aceng warned of another lockdown and other forceful strategies to achieve adherence to prevention measures if the evident laxity in observing Covid-19 prevention measures continue.

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