Covid-19: WHO questions Uganda on case deductions

Thursday May 28 2020

Testing.  Truck drivers from Kenya line up to

Testing. Truck drivers from Kenya line up to be tested for Covid-19 at the Busia border post before proceeding into Uganda on May 20. PHOTO BY DAVID AWORI 


The World Health Organisation (WHO) has questioned the modality Uganda is using to deduct numbers of Covid-19 positive foreign cases, especially of trans-border cargo truck drivers.
By yesterday, WHO figures for confirmed coronavirus cases in Uganda stood at 304, while the Ministry of Health indicated 253.
On May 20, President Museveni directed the Ministry of Health to deduct numbers of foreign truck drivers from the total sum of Ugandan coronavirus cases.

“The President directed that in addition to testing all long-distance truck drivers before entry into the country, and only allowing in the negative ones, all the foreign drivers who had tested positive and had been added to the confirmed cases of Uganda should be deducted from Uganda’s total confirmed Covid-19 cases. In this regard, we have reviewed the numbers and made amendments,” Health minister Jane Ruth Aceng explained in a national coronavirus update address on Thursday.
WHO Uganda representative, Dr Yonas Tegegn Woldemariam, worries that the numbers could be lost in the counting if the country where the Covid-19 positive truck driver comes from does not include the cases in their total counts.

“Formalise reduction of foreign numbers from your cases. The most important thing is that they should be counted in the bigger pool of numbers,” Dr Woldemariam said.
“In this case, when Uganda revises its numbers, we expect Uganda to inform the places where this people come from so that they are considered there. What is important is also the care to those people. In this case, the neighbouring countries knowing that these people have been found to be positive in Uganda and some of them might even test negative or positive again in their country. This is something which the East African Community should standardize. We will facilitate the discussion among member states so that these cases are not lost in the counting,” he added.

Mr Emmanuel Ainebyona, the Ministry of Health spokesperson, said they are following the directives of the President.
“For us when we test (any truck driver found positive), we notify their countries,” he said.
This, however, raises concerns of compliance to international protocol on records of Covid-19 cases, according to WHO.

The deductions. Uganda’s deduction of foreign positive cases comes at a time when statisticians around the world are grappling with distorted deaths and infection rates amid mixed pressures of testing capacity, differing counting protocols and political meddling.

Kenya’s Health ministry yesterday address a press conference in the capital Nairobi in which they said they were aware about the deductions and Kenyan officials have met their Ugandan counterparts to solve the matter. The officials did not accept or deny documenting Covid-19 positive Kenyan truckers tested at the Kenya-Uganda border.
On May 12, the heads of State of Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and South Sudan held a virtual summit to agree on how the issue of Covid-19 transmission through cross border truck drivers should be handled.
But there was no mention or discussion on whether or not each country should deduct numbers of foreign positive coronavirus cases from their total cases.