Uganda's Covid-19 death toll hits 60

Thursday September 17 2020

Health minister Jane Ruth Aceng and Makerere University Professor William Bazeyo (left) launch the clinical trial that uses convalescent plasma for the treatment of Covid-19 yesterday in Kampala. PHOTO | COURTESY

By Tonny Abet
By Kelvin Atuhaire

Uganda yesterday registered 143 new Covid-19 cases and two more deaths, taking the cumulative infection tally to 5,266 cases and 60 deaths.

Health ministry statistics indicate that the new cases were registered from 2,606 samples tested on Tuesday from alerts, contacts, and returnees and at points of entry.
Of the 2,606 samples, 64 cases were from alerts, 71 from contacts, eight returnees and two deaths.

Of the 135 cases of contacts and alerts, 66 positive cases were from Kampala, 15 from Buikwe, 14 from Lira, Seven from Mbale, Two from Wakiso, three from Masaka while Arua and Zombo had one each.

Uganda’s Covid-19 curve continues to rise, five months after the first cases were recorded in the country.
More than 4.3 million people worldwide have been infected with the virus.

Health experts are now concerned about the rising infections, especially in congested areas such as Kampala, where majority of  the populated Keep violating  guidelines  such as wearing facemasks, social distancing and sanitising among others.

The president is expected to address the nation this week with the population hoping that the other sectors such as schools and places of worship reopen.  Last week, the government set up 40,000 beds for managing Covid-19 patients at Namboole Stadium as many hospitals and isolation centres continue to be flooded with patients.


Experts warn
On Monday,  experts warned that the country will continue to register high numbers and more deaths given the prevalence of the pandemic and violation of Covid-19 prevention measures.

Up to 92 children aged up to 12 years had tested positive for Covid-19, according to the ministry.
Dr Andrew Kambugu, the executive director of Infectious Diseases Institute (IDI), attributed the rising cases to laxity in observing preventive measures. 
However, he said Uganda is no exception as other countries across the globe have experienced the same.

“We benefitted from the early lockdown in terms of interrupting transmission but if you have been walking around town recently, people are violating preventive measures. What we are seeing reflects how we are observing the measures as individuals and community,” he said.

Dr Yonas Tegegn, the World Health Organisation country representative, said: “We need to continue practicing the necessary preventive measures until we come up with a vaccine.”

Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, the Health minister,  last week said they had stepped up measures aimed at  mitigating the Covid-19 infection among health workers.
She highlighted training on case identification, guidance on creating holding areas in each health facility and instituting of infection prevention, and control committees to monitor safety of workers.

Govt pushes for Covid-19 treatment

Dr Aceng yesterday asked scientists to speed up the process of developing a Covid-19 treatment mechanism that uses blood from recovered patients in a move to curb the rising Covid-19 deaths.

The country is currently using drugs such as dexamethasone and revidesivir to treat patients but access to some of the drugs is limited because they are imported.

While launching the convalescent plasma (CP) therapy that is going to be testing Covid-19 patients to establish effectiveness in treatment, Dr Aceng said: “The clinical trial should be started tomorrow. Covid-19 is real and it is with us, anything that can be done to save lives is highly needed. Covid-19 has no treatment and what we are using currently is supportive. So having CP come on board is great.” 

CP refers to a colourless liquid in blood which is obtained from one who has recovered from an infectious disease and considered to be rich, especially in antibodies.
She appealed to recovered patients to donate their blood to support the noble drive.

Dr Bruce Kirenga, the director of Makerere Lung Institute, who is also heading the CP development, said 162 recovered Covid-19 patients have so far come out and have donated blood and that the level of antibodies against the disease in blood was very good.

Describing the treatment as hopeful, Dr Kirenga said they have processed and stored the plasma and are now ready to kick start the clinical trial.

“All donated plasma was tested for Covid-29 and it was found negative. To be eligible, the donors had to provide written informed consent, have documented evidence of Covid-19 infection by PCR, have documents evidence of recovery from Covid-19 (defined as two negative PCR tests performed at least 24 hours apart),” he said.