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Gov’t Giving free treatment to COVID-19 Patients

People infected with coronavirus have been offered free treatment by the Government, according to health minister Dr Jane Aceng.

Uganda reported the first case of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on March 21. The health ministry permanent secretary, Dr Diana Atwine, yesterday said of the 302 samples tested, one turned out positive, bringing the number of confirmed cases to 45 as of April 2.

Waived

Aceng said the Government has waived the cost of treatment and testing for COVID-19. The Government has also covered the cost of maintaining the people suspected to be having the coronavirus in quarantine facilities.

However, the patients who prefer what they consider to be better facilities other than what the Government is providing will have to pay.

Charges

Initially, the Government provided hotel facilities at $100 (sh380, 000) per day for people who were returning from high risk countries. This was before coronavirus was detected in Uganda. However, there were complaints that the cost was unaffordable to most people. The Government then adjusted to a quarantine facility for $35 (sh135, 000) a day. This too was not a preferred option for most of the people at the quarantine facility.

The last resort was to secure quarantine centers in schools such as Makerere University Agricultural Institute in Kabanyoro, Gayaza that was provided free of charge.

The cost of testing is $65 (sh250, 000) which is also covered by the Government. Due to the high cost, only people who show symptoms are tested, according to Aceng.

Big opportunity

The minister explained that in one month, Uganda’s cases of the coronavirus could have risen to over 180,000, with 500 deaths if no measures had been taken to control the disease that is sweeping through the world. Aceng said the preventive measures put in place such as washing hands and avoiding movement as well as social distancing were going to slow down the spread of the disease.

She added that the opportunity to control the disease was still in Uganda’s hands but this will depend on how effectively they implement the preventive measures.

Dr. Henry G Mwebesa (centre), the Director General of Health Services, consulting Minister Dr.Aceng. Left is Dr Yonas Tegegn Woldemariam, the World Health Organisation country representative

Statistics

Around half of the planet’s population is under some form of lockdown as governments struggle to halt the spread of

a disease that has now infected more than 1,034,086 people, while over 54,463 are known to have died, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally. Aceng said Uganda had many cases of people infected with the virus returning from different countries, particularly Dubai and the United Arab Emirates. Three cases namely Adjumani, Masaka and Iganga are the only local cases. “Many of the returnees integrated with the community,” she said, adding that a lockdown is needed to suppress the spread of the disease.

Harassment of patients

The public has been warned against attacking people who are suspected to be infected with COVID-19 or those that have travelled from high-risk areas. The call was made by Dr Henry Kyobe, an epidemiologist in Uganda People’s Defence Forces. There have been many cases of mob justice especially in places where people are suspected to have COVID-19, something that is against the law, according to Kyobe.

“All the people who have completed their 14 days of quarantine and some who have tested negative are issued with certificates, so the public should not doubt what the Government has issued. If you still doubt, call the toll free line for clarification,” Kyobe explained.

“Today, you are waging war against others because you suspect them to be infected with COVID-19, how sure are you that tomorrow it won’t be you or your family member?” Aceng asked.

Testing for COVID-19

According to Prof. Ponsiano Kalebu, the head of the Uganda Virus Research Institute, Uganda has some of the best equipment to test for coronavirus. “We have consulted other African countries regarding how they handle such cases,” he said. He added that it takes six to eight hours to run a test for the virus and this is one of the reasons why some of the results are announced at night.

Decentralisation

As the country starts to register confirmed cases upcountry, the ministry is decentralizing the management of cases to districts to stop people travelling to Kampala and Entebbe for screening, testing and treatment.

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