National News

No community COVID-19 transmission in Uganda – Health minister

The minister of Health Jane Ruth Aceng has said the rapid assessment survey has revealed that there is no community transmission of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Uganda. 

Addressing the nation today about the COVID-19 status, Aceng said out of 14,061 participants of the targeted 23,000 samples, only four sporadic cases tested positive including; two police officers, a Ugandan student returnee from Bukoba in Tanzania and a truck driver in Rakai. Aceng says this translates to just 0.03% community transmission.  

On April 28, 2020, the ministry of Health flagged off a rapid assessment survey to determine the prevalence of coronavirus disease in communities in the country. The survey targeted blood samples, nose and throat swabs from random individuals including the riskiest personnel such as the clergy, market vendors, police and army officers. 

Aceng said from the rapid assessment survey there is indeed no COVID-19 transmission within the Ugandan community. She said Uganda’s coronavirus risk, for now, remains cross-border truck drivers.

Of Uganda’s 139 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of May 14, Aceng said 79 of the positive cases are from truck drivers  – 35 Kenyan nationals, 19 Tanzanians, 20 Ugandans, one Rwandan, 3 Eritrineans and one Burundian. 

Aceng said the ministry had noted Ugandans concerns in regards to the truck drivers and that they had addressed the president accordingly.

Some countries like Zambia have closed their borders to Tanzania which has resisted World Health Organisations recommendations for total lockdown.

Aceng asked the public to wait for the president’s next address regarding truck drivers. Aceng said Uganda has proposed to the other East African countries to build an army of negative truck drivers who are always tested and quarantined within the system.

Testing kits for two weeks

Aceng said Uganda has capacity to carry out 15,000 PCR coronavirus tests per day and efforts are being made to scale the testing to 10,000 PCR tests per day.

She said, however, available test kits are only enough to take through the country for the next two weeks. Aceng said they expect a test consignment tomorrow that would be able to address the shortages but warned that globally there is a shortage of test kits.

Dr Misaki Wayengera said there will be no extension of the lockdown past May 18 when the current lockdown expires next week. He said there will be phased lifting and not total lifting. Prof Rhoda Wanyenze who is also on the national COVID-19 task force warned that lifting the lockdown is not permanent, and if Ugandans don’t adhere to measures and the cases explode, they can resort back to lockdown including localised lockdown of communities – districts/town or workplace lockdown. 

Wanyenze further said the majority of Uganda’s cases were asymptomatic and presented no clinical symptoms until after 5-7 days after testing positive and some remained asymptomatic all through the treatment.

She added that some of the patients had underlying health conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, HIV/Aids and cancer and they all responded well to treatment.  

Addressing the issue of a Kenyan truck driver who tested positive for COVID-19 in Uganda and had his results overturned to negative in Kenya, Prof Pontiano Kaleebu the director of the Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) said it is scientifically possible to test positive in Uganda and negative later in Kenya. Kaleebu insisted that they stand by their test results and they believe they did a good job.  

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