Government warns Ugandans against travel to epidemic-hit countries

Pedestrians wear face masks during the Lunar New Year celebrations in Hong Kong yesterday. The masks are a preventive measure against coronavirus, which broke out in China last week. PHOTO BY AFP

The Ministry of Health has asked the public to minimise travels to countries hit by deadly epidemics to avoid contracting and spreading the infections.

Dr Diana Atwine, the ministry’s permanent secretary, while responding to the country’s preparedness following the outbreak of coronavirus epidemic in China and other countries, said they have strengthened screening of travellers at Entebbe airport and all borders.

“We don’t have coronavirus in the country. We continue to screen at the airport and borders; we have our surveillance team and for any suspected person, we are prepared. We advise the public to minimise travel to areas that are affected,” Dr Atwine said during the monthly Ministry of Health breakfast meeting in Kampala yesterday.

Mr Emmanuel Ainebyoona, the ministry’s senior public relations officer, said the emergency health team is at the airport to ensure every person who enters the country, especially those from the affected countries, is screened for the virus.

“There is an emergency health team that is always at the airport in case of an emergency; whoever is coming in is checked. Already there were scanners at the airport that were used to screen for Ebola...,” Mr Ainebyoona said.

Coronavirus outbreak has been confirmed in China, which is Uganda’s key trading partner, and there are many travellers who visit either country every day for business and other purposes. There is also an outbreak of yellow fever in Moyo and Buliisa districts and Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever in Kagadi District.

The Ministry of Health has instructed communities living in areas which are prone to outbreaks of Crimean –Congo haemorrhagic fever to ensure that their animals are treated.

Dr Atwine said affected animals must be treated immediately. “The ministry has already trained district leaders to handle and, therefore, the public should not worry,” she said.
The outbreak of the coronavirus has already killed 80 people. Infections have also been confirmed in many other countries. But of the nearly 3,000 people who have so far contracted the virus, the vast majority live in China.

The World Health Organisation has urged countries to conduct exit screening at international airports and ports in the affected areas. Countries with confirmed cases include; Australia, China, Shanghai, France, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea, Taiwan, United States, Nepal and Singapore.

About coronavirus
According to WHO, coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.