Local coronavirus infections worry health workers, government

Wednesday June 3 2020

A medical worker takes a sample

A medical worker takes a sample from a man in Kampala on May 1.PHOTO BY ABUBAKER LUBOWA 

By Franklin Draku & Nobert Atukunda

More than 100 Ugandans have so far been infected with coronavirus through contact with interstate truck drivers or other confirmed cases, according to Ministry of Health statistics.

The increasing numbers of Covid-19 infections is putting a dent on Uganda’s effort to combat the pandemic.

Health officials and the medical fraternity are worried that the rapid increase in the number of cases and their contacts could overwhelm the hospitals thus causing difficulty in management of cases.

Out of the 40 new Covid-19 cases confirmed on June 1, at least 23 cases are samples tested from points of entry, whereas 17 are from the contacts.

Uganda has so far registered a total of 457 cases of which more than 50 are contacts of truck drivers while the rest are community infections.

Dr Ayella Ataro, the vice president Uganda medical association, said the increase in the number of cases is worrying and points a big challenge for the country.


“We could overwhelm the treatment centres and not be able to care for the patients adequately. Even if we have strong control at the border we may not manage it well,” Dr Ataro said.

He said the biggest challenge still comes from the truck drivers who need to be managed carefully.
“We cannot completely avoid truck drivers from interacting with people because along the way there are vendors selling things,” Dr Ataro added.

Dr Moriku Kaducu, the Minister of State for Primary Healthcare, said the increase in the number of case means more stress of contact identification, follow up as well as strengthening surveillance system.

When Mulago released its first and second lots of patients who had recovered, the hospital executive director, Dr Byarugaba Baterana, was upbeat and asked other countries to send their patients to Mulago for treatment because the hospital had now built capacity.

However, the latest surge is a test of the healthcare system in the country.
Asked whether Uganda has the capacity to manage the emerging threat, Dr Moriku said government plans to allocate more space and human resource to manage the pandemic.

“Capacity in terms of space, yes we will construct tents which are nontraditional hospitals, recruit more health workers. We have the capacity because Entebbe can take atleast 125 patients. Other regional referral hospitals are not yet full,” Dr Moriku said yesterday.

Meanwhile, on May 30, Ministry of Health announced seven community cases in Kasensero Landing Site in Kyotera District, placing it under quarantine. All the seven positive cases were fishermen who operate on the lake roaming between Ugandan and Tanzanian.

Across the country, more cases were announced on June 1, from Nebbi, Zombo, Amudat, Gulu, Amuru, Jinja, Wakiso and Yumbe districts, where the ministry confirmed 17 local infections. Seven frontline health workers have tested positive, further adding to the stress the health workers and general population is going through.

Dr Edward Muwanga, the Kyotera District health officer expressed fears that community infections could be worse than what has been discovered.