As the country grapples with Stage 4 of the Covid-19 pandemic, government has issued new guidelines for treatment where a recovering patient will be discharged without a repeat test to check whether the virus has completely been eliminated from the body.
While updating the country about the state of the pandemic yesterday, Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, the Health minister, said the patient discharge criteria will be based on the level of disease severity and whether their immunity is suppressed or not.
Dr Aceng said a Covid-19 test will no longer be required before discharging asymptomatic, mild and moderate covid-19 patients from hospital.
"They will be discharged if PCR (Covid-19 test) is negative. A repeat PCR is not needed. If PCR is positive at day 10, repeat after five days will be done and discharged if PCR is negative, the patient will be discharged. If PCR is still positive at day 15, discharge at day 20 without further PCR testing will be done," Dr Aceng said yesterday.
"A time and symptom based criteria will be used whereby individuals with Covid-19 who do not require oxygen may be discharged at least 10 days after symptom onset provided they have improved and they are at least 24 hours fever free," she continued.
"Asymptomatic patients may be discharged or de-isolated 10 days after the date of the initial positive Covid-19 test if they have no symptoms at all."
Initially Covid-19 patients had to wait for at least two negative results done 24 hours apart to be termed as recovered and discharged. This will not be the case anymore. A number of patients have previously complained about delayed test results which had postponed their discharge as well.
However, samples will be collected for testing if clinically stable at least 24 hours fever free and at least 10 days since symptoms first appeared for Covid-19 patients in intensive care unit.
Dr Monica Musenero, a Senior presidential adviser on epidemics, yesterday told Daily Monitor that with the increasing number of cases, only patients at risk of dying will be kept in hospital.
"Whereas we have been taking people to hospital until they test negative, because we have so many cases, now we are going to keep people in the hospital for the duration they are at risk of dying," Dr Musenero said.
She added, "Just like contacts and everybody else once you are not in danger of dying, we are going to give you the responsibility to go home and protect your family members by giving them the information they need to ensure their safety,"
Currently, at least 28 districts are in Phase 4 of the pandemic whereas others are slowly progressing to this phase.
With this phase, there are wide community infections, with unconnected multiple clusters of the disease and the response measure is mitigation.
The major focus of transmission and clusters are in Kampala Metropolitan area, Kiryandongo, Pader, Moroto and Kapchorwa districts.
Dr Aceng said priority of Covid-19 samples has been focused on four main criteria; person with moderate to severe symptoms, health workers to receive their results in less than 24 hours from time of receipt of the specimen, contacts and alert cases with mild and moderate signs and symptoms will receive results within 24 to 36 hours.
Patients who are admitted to Covid-19 treatment centres with Covid-19 related symptoms, symptomatic alerts and contacts in congregate settings such as prisons are part of the prioritised category.
Meanwhile, government has developed standard operating procedures for home-based isolation for individuals and families who are able to properly isolate at home.
As of yesterday, Uganda had registered 112 new coronavirus cases bringing the total number to 8,129 cases with 4,260 recoveries and 75 deaths.
With 75 deaths, Ministry of Health has prohibited family members and public from viewing the body of anyone who dies of Covid-19.
"Burials should take place on the same day the death has occurred and will be conducted by relatives of the deceased under supervision of trained burial teams," Dr Aceng said.