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Uganda rolls out health strategy to combat COVID-19 spread

Xinhua | Updated: 2020-04-03 09:47
A man puts hand sanitizer on passengers hands before boarding public transport buses as residents leave for the villages amid concerns over the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a bus terminal in Old Kampala, Uganda March 24, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

KAMPALA - Uganda on Thursday rolled out a comprehensive health plan to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The east African country currently has 44 confirmed cases.

Ruth Aceng, Minister of Health accompanied by World Health Organization, U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention country representatives and other officials said the country is bracing its self for the outbreak.

Aceng said the ministry has put up a team of specialist doctors including those from the military to help combat the outbreak. She noted that the government health personnel are backed up by 82 military medical personnel.

She said government would soon recruit 220 health personnel to be deployed across the country to do case management and surveillance. The minister noted that the privately owned medical facilities would also be called upon if the situation worsens.

The ministry of health has set aside a total of 3,650 beds in public hospitals across the country. The country also has 288 Intensive Care Units that would be used by patients who are in critical condition.

Aceng said 310 ambulances have been deployed at both national and district level to evacuate positive cases.

The ministry has also decentralized the treatment of positive cases from national to district level. According to the ministry, this would limit the transmission of the disease in the process of transporting the positive cases to the national treatment centers.

Minister Aceng said from the time China confirmed the COVID-19 outbreak on December 31, 2019, Uganda has been taking a series of measures to limit the spread.

Uganda on March 21 registered its first case which was imported from Dubai. Since then, the country has registered 44 confirmed cases. A total of 766 contacts to the 44 confirmed cases have been listed and being followed up, according to the ministry.

Government has previously warned that the country is likely to register more cases since some of the confirmed cases had already interacted with the public.

Government has instituted a series of measures to ensure that the spread is limited.

The country's President Yoweri Museveni has so far announced 23 measures which among others include a lockdown for 14 days. Public and private transport was suspended, public gatherings banned and the entry points closed to incoming and outgoing travelers, apart from cargo.

All these measures, including majorly social distancing are critical in reversing epidemic growth and reduce case numbers.

"This is necessary, in part to halt secondary transmissions from those yet undetected cases in the community, but also enable their eventual discovery," according to the ministry.

Minister Aceng said without any lockdown or social distancing measures, the epidemic will get out of hand.

"Basically, what this means from the modelling so far done, is that Uganda will have 18,878 cases (at a 3 percent fatality rate, 566.34 deaths) by April 30, 2020. This is unbearable for our already constrained health system," she said.

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