More caution needed as Covid-19 cases decline

Wednesday October 21 2020
editorial01pix

Mulago medical staff led by Mulago Executive Director Byarugaba Baterana (centre) celebrate after discharging the last Covid-19 patients at Mulago Hospital . PHOTO/FILE

News report of a 20 per cent drop in new cases of Covid-19 in the past three weeks provides some hope that we can actually fight the contagious viral disease. 

Previously, we had cases on the up, recording the highest on September 24, with 1,490 new cases in a single week.
Although not very significant, the recording of lowest count of Covid-19 new cases is a good signal. 

But here’s a caution; the number of infections may not necessarily be going down now. As the country’s public health experts have warned, the decline in cases may be flagging another problem, namely the change in focus of our testing for the virus. 

For instance, Dr Henry Kajumba, the overseer of Covid-19 infection prevention and control in the Health ministry, warns that the cut down may be explained by increased testing of people who are less prone to Covid-19 infections. 

This assumption is bolstered by Makerere University’s Prof Freddie Ssengooba, who says the country’s focus on specific segments such as travellers, employees, and students obscures the real trend of Covid-19 cases in the country. 

This approach sidesteps mass testing of communities at high risk of exposure to the epidemic, tracking cases and contacts, and treating the sick cases. 
Moreover, Dr Susan Nabadda says such restrictive testing is likely to return decline in new cases. 

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Also, the shortage of testing kits for Covd-19 and the Health ministry prioritising testing for frontline health workers, those with symptoms, and their contacts could have discouraged those who used to walk in and take a test, thus resulting in drop in new cases. 

The probable implication here is that we are testing less and detecting fewer cases too. Conversely, mass testing is likely to yield increased cases of new Covid-19 infections. 

Therefore, this cheerfully encouraging report should not lull us into a false sense of security. What is more, we have to keep our guard up, especially with universities - both private and government, opening their doors to final year students. 

This means thousands of students have been freed to interact more, also with more risks of Covid-19 infection and spread.
In all these, our best chances against the pandemic remain in strict observances of the standard operating procedures (SOPs). 

Let’s sanitise or wash our hands with soap frequently; avoid touching our mouth, eyes, and nose; stay home and avoid crowded places or wear facemasks; stay home when unwell, especially with signs of cold or cough, or seek medical care early.

Together we can beat the coronavirus disease.

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