The government is considering a second lockdown as a radical measure to break the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic that has so far killed 359 people and left at least 521 fighting for their lives.
The Mulago National Referral Hospital and other facilities across the country are currently overcrowded, and the positivity rate has risen from 1.5 percent in April to 7.8 percent as of yesterday.
The country’s health officials said the most contagious variants of the virus, especially from India, Nigeria, the United Kingdom and South Africa, are partly to blame for the accelerated spread.
Critics, however, say the government relaxed after the January elections and many citizens have not been vaccinated.
Of 521 infected people, a total of 186, including a newborn baby and a 14-year-old boy, are admitted to the High Dependency Unit (HDU) or the Intensive Care Units (ICU).
Dr. Diana Atwine, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health, yesterday convened an emergency meeting of the Covid-19 temporary working group to discuss the way forward.
Dr. Atwine said that due to non-compliance with Covid-19 guidelines despite the increase in infections and deaths, the lockdown is a possible preventive measure.
“If the public has refused to take the measures that we have implemented, I think that is the way to go. Some areas need to be closed unless people revert to standard operating procedures (SOPs). Otherwise, our systems will be overwhelmed and we will see scenarios that we have been seeing in some countries, ”said Dr. Atwine.
Kira Road Police Division Commander Mathias Turyasingura, who held the rank of Police Superintendent, succumbed to coronavirus yesterday at Mulago hospital.
Outgoing local government minister Raphael Magyezi announced yesterday that he had tested positive.
When the second wave hit the country this month, cases rose rapidly from 36 on April 23 to 202 on May 23.
At least 200 Ugandans contract the virus every day, according to figures from the Health Ministry.
Health officials also resolved to meet with President Museveni and brief him on the current situation, including the National Covid Task Force, which is not fully constituted. Changes in government affected the operations of the task force.
Dr. Atwine issued a statement, announcing the formation of a temporary National Covid Task Force.
She indicated that the President had ordered that, pending a new Cabinet, a temporary national working group composed of the Permanent Secretary and the undersecretaries be constituted to manage the national response to the resurgence.
The new working group meets today at 2:30 pm to discuss the way forward.
The team is expected to present key recommendations on how the government should respond to the crisis.
The team, according to sources, will discuss the pros and cons of a second blockade and which districts or sectors will be affected.
“It (the confinement) is very possible because for us lives matter and anything that disturbs people’s lives, we would find solutions and one of them is to find a solution through confinement… Therefore, as the Ministry of Health, We will not just sit back and watch, but come up with a solution to present to the working group, ”Dr. Atwine said.
The planned closure, according to ministry sources, is targeting the city of Kampala and other badly affected urban areas.
The capital accounts for 55 percent of infections in the country.
Dr. Misaki Wayengera, head of the Ministerial Scientific Advisory Committee on Covid-19, said that while the lockdown is possible, it cannot be addressed in the way it was previously done.
“It can be done by blocking some sectors, there can be adjustments or it can be done geographically like Kampala. Kampala is a disaster, so it could be closed, ”Dr. Wayengera said.
He added: “We are still trying to see and we are still understanding the transmission where it really is coming from to make decisions on how to approach this.”
According to Dr. Wayengera, Ugandans should expect strict enforcement of Covid-19 measures.
He reiterated that if the public does not adhere to the SOPs, closure is inevitable.
Consultations will take place between the Ministry of Health and different stakeholders who will then propose some solutions to Mr. Museveni to guide accordingly.
Several young people, who have been infected, have presented severe symptoms unlike the first wave where the elderly were the most affected.
Private hospitals have started turning Covid-19 patients away to public health facilities.
Only in a period of seven days, Uganda has registered at least 1,000 cases.
Dr. Monica Musenero, Senior Presidential Adviser on Epidemics, confirmed that a meeting is being arranged to discuss the increased numbers, and the public will be informed of the results.
The surge in infections comes as schools are preparing to reopen for Primary One students on June 7.
Ministry of Health Permanent declaration of the secretary on the confinement
The country is experiencing the second wave and we had alerted the public about this. We knew it was coming, but at the time we were sounding the warning, people were busy in politics, now that politics is done, we want the public to hear us. We have experienced a sharp increase in cases. Two days ago, we received 187 cases in one day. I think yesterday the numbers could be more than 200.
In less than a week, we have lost more than six people from our ICUs. The sad thing is that some of the people we are losing are very young, our ICU and HDU (High Dependency Unit) are full, some private hospitals have begun to reject patients who have Covid-19 and are sending them to our public hospitals. Our hospitals will soon be full, possibly in less than a week if we stick to what we saw or what we saw in the last five days.
The public is reminded that the second wave is worse than the first because in the first we did not lose many young people. The statistics of our young people in ICU who arrive at a very critical stage are worrying.
It’s a shame that the campaign against the vaccine has been underway and has obscured the real threat. The vaccines we send to some districts have not been enthusiastically received. We have decided to withdraw these vaccines to campaign here where the great access point is the districts of Kampala, Mukono, Wakiso. Everyone who wants to get vaccinated will have it.
We are reactivating the Namboole Stadium. We have also had issues with incoming travelers. Although they have negative results, when we did the tests, we found many people who are positive. These are some of the people who don’t want to follow standard operating procedures. Ideally, asymptomatic patients are supposed to do home isolation and make sure that we follow up, that they get tested when authorized, and that they can be free. So we can leave the hospitals to symptomatic cases because they are increasing rapidly.
But the challenge is that our people do not want to listen when they isolate themselves, they do not adhere to the rules and they end up infecting their loved ones. At first we were isolating them but we are going to get to a level where hospitals must be left to critical patients because Entebbe is full, Mulago by yesterday (Tuesday) morning had 84.
It cannot be ruled out (blocking) because for us life comes first. If the public has refused to take the measures that were put in place, I think that’s the way to go, some areas need to be closed unless people revert to standard operating procedures. Otherwise, we will overwhelm our systems and see scenarios from some countries.
If people refuse to listen, we will hire the task force. Currently, the working group is not fully constituted because I believe that the old members are no longer available. But I think it will soon be established and we will start. In the meantime, we are going to have a press release to give the country the details of what is happening in the country and what the people should do.
We will also propose some measures after consulting with all stakeholders, we will propose solutions to the President and he will guide them.
India was unable to export vaccines due to their heavy burden of disease. They had to concentrate the vaccine within the country to vaccinate their people. We are now hiring COVAX to order. They wrote to us and said that there is a window where we can buy through COVAX and then they are bargaining collectively, they are looking for other Astrazeneca manufacturers like UK, USA.
But we are also looking for possibilities to obtain other vaccines, Johnson and Johnson through the African Union. We have also sorted through that. We are also looking for other vaccines that have been approved by the World Health Organization, such as the Chinese vaccine. Some of those vaccines are very expensive.
I think Chinese is roughly $ 40 per dose, Russian has yet to get World Health Organization approval. They have told me that they have also done a single dose. We knew why we encouraged people to get vaccinated ahead of time, scientific doses don’t tell lies.
When a vaccine is given, your body needstime to start preparing the fight to start producing the antibodies. When he gets a vaccine today and gets the infection tomorrow, he is as good as someone who was not vaccinated.