Uganda Enters New Lockdown as COVID-19 Cases Soar COVID-19 07/06/2021 • Esther Nakkazi Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) President of Uganda Yoweri Museveni addressing the nation Uganda has imposed more stringent measures to control COVID-19 transmission after it recorded over 1000 new cases per day on 2 June – its highest tally ever, mostly among people aged between 20 and 39 years. On Sunday, President Yoweri Museveni instituted a 42-day lockdown during which time all schools and institutions of higher learning will be closed. Teachers will also have to be fully vaccinated before they are accepted back to the classrooms. Since March, Uganda’s education institutions have been a major source of COVID-19 infections with a total of 948 reported cases in 43 schools from 22 districts. Over 60% of cases have come from Kampala, Gulu, Masaka and Oyam districts. “We believe this number is much higher, only that most schools are not reporting. They are hiding because they don’t want to be closed and most of them want to get money,” said Museveni. The increased COVID-19 infections in schools has been attributed to poor compliance with behavioural guidelines such as mask-wearing, inadequate sanitation facilities and overcrowding. Communal gatherings of over 20 people, including at places of worship, conferences and cultural gatherings, have also been suspended for the next 42 days. However, the Cabinet, legislature, and the judiciary are allowed, as are small gatherings under 20 people and agriculture activities, factories, construction, shopping malls, food markets and supermarkets. But all have to close by 7pm. Test Positivity Reaches 18% Last Friday, the Ministry of Health’s testing results indicated 1,259 new cases out of 7,289 samples tested and nine deaths. Uganda’s cumulative confirmed cases are 52,935 and deaths are up to 383. Active cases on admission at health facilities are 634 and the test positivity rate has increased to 18.1%. “A test positivity above 10% is a cause for concern especially in a country where testing is reasonably being done,” said the World Health Organisation regional director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti. Museveni said this situation is beginning to stress the health facilities, with pressure of available beds and oxygen in hospitals. “The intensity of the illness and severity among the COVID-19 patients is higher than what we experienced in the previous phase,” said Museveni about the second wave. He encouraged people to work from home with only 30% of the staff who work in offices allowed with physical presence. Inter-district movement has also been suspended except for tourist vehicles and cargo trucks that have to carry only two people. Museveni said all travelers have to undergo mandatory COVID-19 testing because some who would come into the country with purported negative PCR test results were tested positive. To date, Uganda has confirmed a total of 126 cases from travelers coming in through Entebbe International airport out of 4,327 travelers entering the country since the pandemic started. Health Director General Henry Mwebesa Meanwhile, the country has used 748,676 AstraZeneca vaccines out of 964,000 available, with 712,681 people having their first dose and 35,995 people having received both doses. The country received 864,000 doses from COVAX in March and 100,000 as a donation from the Indian government. Museveni said the government is committed to vaccinating all the 21.9 million eligible Ugandans, starting with the priority groups of 4.8 million people. The country is also trying to avoid wastage of COVID-19 vaccines by reassigning vaccines from low to high absorption areas. Malawi destroyed vaccines last week due to expiration. Districts that have a below 50 percent uptake of COVID-19 vaccines in Uganda will have them withdrawn and redeployed elsewhere unless they act immediately, the Ministry of health has announced. The vaccines are due to expire by 10 July. Vaccines to be Redeployed Health Director General Henry Mwebesa says the withdrawn vaccines will be redeployed to the Kampala Metropolitan Area where the infection rate and uptake are high. “Take note that there will be penalties for those that waste vaccines or allow vaccines in their possession to expire yet these are very expensive life saving vaccines,” warned Mwebasa. When the vaccines were delivered, the districts were given three months to vaccinate vulnerable groups including health workers, teachers, security personnel and anyone between 18 and 50 years with comorbidities. According to some district leaders, some places have been unable to roll out vaccinations properly as they are under-staffed or newly created with inefficient management systems. “Most of these districts have valid reasons for the low absorption. Ultimately, they have no capacity to translate policy into action,” said Alfred Driwale, the manager of the Uganda National Expanded Programme on Immunization (UNEPI) at the Ministry of Health. Meanwhile, Museveni warned the public to either comply or face a total lockdown and fines: “Failure to observe the stated directives within a week, I will direct a total lockdown. Those who do not care for the health of Ugandans will pay financially.” Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Combat the infodemic in health information and support health policy reporting from the global South. Our growing network of journalists in Africa, Asia, Geneva and New York connect the dots between regional realities and the big global debates, with evidence-based, open access news and analysis. To make a personal or organisational contribution click here on PayPal.