COVID19: Why Uganda Extended Days of Lockdown

So far, up to a tune of 5,649 people have been tested and out of that, 54 have been confirmed positive of COVID19 and eight recoveries have been registered.

President Yoweri delivering a televised address at State House, Nakasero, Kampala.

Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni has extended the country’s nationwide lockdown until May 5 in a bid to contain spread of the coronavirus.

Speaking in a televised address on Tuesday 14th, 2020, Museveni said it was vital that the virus is prevented from impacting the country that has already registered 54 cases and seven recoveries.

The President explained that the 21 days will allow the Ministry of Health and the COVID-19 National Taskforce chaired by him, to complete testing all the 18,000 Ugandans who entered the country between 7th to 25th March, 2020.

According to the President, during the first two weeks of the lockdown, the COVID-19 National Taskforce, that is chaired by him, has been working on blocking the importation of the virus, tasting those in quarantine, identification and putting in isolation those who entered into the community, together with contacts, and they are still following up the 18,000 people that entered the Country between March 7th and 25th.

So far, up to a tune of 5,649 people have been tested and out of that, 54 have been confirmed positive of COVID19 and eight recoveries have been registered. By yesterday [March 13th, 2020] 372 lorry cargo drivers were tested and all negative.

“There are however additional danger points as follows: the land borders with other East African countries, the lorry cargo drivers and crew, the Aircraft that are flying in E. Africa and Cargo planes and their crew, the UN Employees still in the country and health workers who are interacting with the patients,” announced the President.

However, Uganda’s health care, law enforcement, media, food sales and distribution, and utilities are exempt from the continued lockdown, and the preventive measures that were announced since March 20th, with an intention of curbing the spread of Coronavirus in Uganda, shall continue to be effective, including the Curfew.

Why the Extension?

On 13th April, 2020, the Ministry of Health announced to the country that they would require at least three more weeks to assess the situation and then determine the next course of action for the country in regards the deadly coronavirus pandemic.

the ministry, they will need a minimum of 21 days to ensure the stability of numbers of infections as far as coronavirus is concerned.

According to the concern by the Ministry of Health permanent secretary Diana Atwine, it was too early to lift the lockdown on the basis of the posted numbers.

“It is still too early to conclude based on these numbers. Our strategy is to get all potential people infected including the truck drivers that cross in whom we are focusing on now. The next 3 weeks will determine the direction we take. Stay safe,” she said on Twitter.

Atwine’s comments came just on time [the day] when cabinet was sitting in Entebbe to determine the next course of action for the country after the elapse of the 14-day lockdown.

Aica learnt that the Taskforce meeting, led by President Yoweri Museveni, agreed with the concerns that were raised by Atwine and other different health experts.

The meeting was attended by Prime Minister Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda; Ministers Janet Museveni, Betty Amongi, Peter Ogwang, Musa Ecweru, Raphael Magezi, Elioda Tumwesigye, Benny Namugwanya, Sam Kuteesa, and Chris Baryomunsi.

It is also possible that President Museveni sought for guidance from the Prime Minister of the Republic of India, Narendra Damodardas Modi, who has also announced the extension of total lockdown in India for nearly three coming weeks.

In his address, Museveni disclosed that he recently had a telephone conversation with the Prime Minister of India and he [Modi] promised to send hydroxychloroquine to Uganda and raw materials for making it locally in the country.

The Government of India has also donated two brand new Ambulances to help the health task force in management of the pandemic.

The Effect

The immediate impact of the shutdown has however been registered on the survival of the country’s hardest-hit citizens whose livelihoods depend on food to put on their tables [hand-to-mouth].

The health care especially in rural setting in Uganda has also suffered the diverse effect of the banning of using private and public means of transport, including use of motorcycles [boda-bodas] even for such emergencies.

The Solution

As a means of harmonizing the situation, government has decentralized all government vehicles in the districts to be under the command of the District Health Officer and the Resident District Commisioners, to serve as a response force to such cases.

Concerns were raised about access to these provided vehicles in the district or division headquarters, as most locals did not have telephone contacts to authorities in charge.

As a solution, The Ministry of ICT and National Guidance partnered with a local ICT company; Veritas Interactive Limited to a launch a new USSD Helpline Code *260# to enable citizens get access about covid-19.

By dialling *260# anyone in Uganda can have automatic access to information ranging from COVID-19 sample collection centres, SMS alerts and district personnel including contacts of all respective Resident District Commissioners and COVID19 Focal Point Persons.

With the new helpline code, Ugandans are also in position to request; for a covid-19 test, as well report any covid-19 case.

The Minister of State, ICT & National Guidance, Hon. Peter Ogwang informed Ugandans that the free service on MTN and Airtel networks, will bridge an information gap between the affected persons and services.

“It’s testimony of Government of Uganda’s commitment to working with local innovators in finding home grown solutions. The Ministry will continue working with local innovators to find solutions that aid the nation-wide fight against covid-19,” said Ogwang.

At the moment, Uganda finds itself in the best possible place among the countries that have registered positive cases of Covid-19. Although 54 positive cases had been recorded in Uganda by the close of Tuesday, none of these cases has proved complicated as to require to be admitted in intensive care, and no Covid-19 related death has been recorded so far.

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Noah Omuya

Noah Omuya is the founder and CEO of Aica Media and a two time winner of the Media Challenge Awards (The best feature story writer- 2018 and the best Climate Change Photography Award- 2019). He has a bachelors degree in Mass Communication from Kampala International University. He is also an alumni for; British Council Future News Worldwide Fellowship- 2020, Climate Tracker Energy Reporting Fellowship- 2020, InfoNile- Code for Africa Data Journalism Fellowship- 2020, the Media Challenge Fellowship, 2019 and British Council East Africa and Africa Writers Trust Master Class in Creative Writing- 2019. Omuya has specialized training in writing, strategic and multimedia communication, mainstream and online journalism, broadcast media and youth participatory radio, content development, and public relations. He is very much interested in sustainable development communication.

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