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Gov’t rejects calls for COVID-19 mass testing

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | A proposal by Parliament calling for COVID-19 mass testing has been rejected by the government after the Minister of State for Planning David Bahati said that this was not possible currently.

Dokolo Woman MP Cecilia Atim Ogwal had appealed that the government carries out mass testing for COVID-19 given the increasing positive cases and deaths across the country. As of Wednesday 23rd September, Uganda had recorded 7,064 positive COVID-19 cases with 70 deaths most of which were recorded after easing restrictions on the lockdown imposed in March.

Ogwal says that an increase in infections has caused fear and panic among the population as well as health workers. She urged the government to embark on mass testing and provide an alternative cheap COVID-19 test for Ugandans some of whom may not afford the test at the current rates. Each COVID-19 test costs not less than 240,000 Shillings.

She also noted that the country is faced with difficulties in implementing the COVID-19 standard operating procedures especially the wearing of face masks and the need for social distancing hence a need for the government to enhance strategies to prevent the spread of the virus.

But David Bahati, the Minister of State for Planning told Parliament that the National Taskforce on COVID-19 held a discussion on Wednesday regarding what more government can do to fight the new strain of coronavirus disease and concluded that mass testing requires resources to acquire reagents and test kits which are not readily available.

“So at the moment we continue to do what we can, to do the testing, but to say that we are going to test every Ugandan is something that is not possible at the moment even if the resources were available, in terms of finances, we cannot get all the required test kits because the world is stretched,” Bahati said.

He appealed that Ugandans instead continue observing the standard operating procedures to prevent the spread of the virus. The Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga tasked the National Taskforce to consider moving out to different regions and carry out risk communication.

However, Tororo South MP Fredrick Angura said that government needed to take the issue of mass testing seriously since even the distribution of free masks across the country has failed.

Busia Municipality MP Geoffrey Macho also insisted that the government considers undertaking mass testing across the country and that the already availed COVID-19 funds and donations are accounted for to avoid questions and speculations.

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