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Health experts warn of more COVID-19 cases in coming weeks

FILE PHOTO: A health worker examines a COVID-19 contact to a previously confirmed case.

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Ugandans should expect more Covid-19 positive cases and possible deaths according to health experts. Although Uganda has been reporting several Covid-19 cases since March, 2020, health officials say the pandemic has just arrived in the country.

The officials say positive Covid-19 cases are set to increase because of the community and sporadic Covid-19 cases being reported.

While the Health ministry insists that all cases being reported among contacts of truck drivers are under quarantine, the increase in such cases and those being reported in districts like Kampala that are not on the border are worrying. Dr. Diana Atwine, the Health Ministry Permanent Secretary says the country should expect the see the worst in coming weeks.

The number of the reported Covid-19 cases is on the rise on the entire African continent. According to the WHO Africa region, 1,500 cases are reported every day on average compared to 500 cases two months ago. The number of confirmed cases stands at over 121,000.

Dr. Monica Musenero, an epidemiologist and senior presidential adviser on epidemics says Uganda is yet to see the worst due to complacency. She says people are no longer afraid of the disease and have abandoned wearing masks and social distancing.

Uganda was among few countries in the world that instituted lockdown measures to forestall the spread of the disease even before a case was confirmed, the first measures were issued on March 18, 2020 while the first case was reported on March 21, 2020.

According to Dr Musenero, while the health system used the lockdown to prepare itself, the Ugandans who were supposed to benefit from it will see no benefits if there’s no behavioral change. She says that people need to go back to the basics of preventing this disease and start wearing masks, washing hands and social distancing.

Data from the health ministry shows that at the time when Uganda received its first case, the level of awareness and fear of COVID-19 stood as high as 60 percent. Today, the fear of the disease among the population has reduced to as low as 20 percent in some parts of the country.

Dr Atwine says while the lockdown played a big role in reducing the rate of infections, the complacency of Ugandans is going to lead to the spread of the disease. She says this is an issue of concern for them at the moment.

According to Musenero, at the moment, Uganda has the ability to manage 2,000 confirmed cases at a given time with 120 Intensive Care Unit-ICU beds to handle severe cases. However, if people keep on ignoring social distancing and stop wearing masks, she says another lockdown might be the solution to slow the spread of the disease.

Uganda has not yet recorded any death associated with the pandemic. Musenero predicts that this record too could be broken if people don’t take the disease a little more serious than they are now.

“So many false things are being shared on social media about this disease and Ugandans are taking in everything. Contrary to what people say that the disease does not kill, it does kill. The only reason Uganda has not reported cases is because the disease had not entered the communities of Uganda. But with the way cases are rising, this situation is about to change. More people will fall sick, the health system will be overwhelmed and deaths will start being reported,” she explained.



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