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Health Ministry attributes no deaths to low COVID-19 cases

FILE PHOTO: COVID-19 testing on a suspected case

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | As the number of COVID-19 deaths in Africa and the East African community continues to rise, Uganda has not recorded any deaths.

In the East African community only, Uganda and Rwanda have not reported any deaths. The highest deaths in the region have been recorded in Kenya at 55 followed by Tanzania with 21 and South Sudan with six.

Figures from the African continent show that over 3,000 deaths have been recorded since the disease broke out. Countries like South Africa with the highest number of confirmed cases on the continent standing at 20,125 have some of the highest recorded deaths at 397. Egypt and Algeria have recorded the highest deaths standing at 707 and 582 respectively.

According to doctors and scientists, the lack of deaths in the country is due to the low number of reported cases which have not overwhelmed the health care system as can be seen in other countries.

Dr Misaki Wayengera, a virologist and also the head of the Scientific Committee on the National COVID-19 Task force says that the country has not recorded any deaths because of the few cases of the disease.

“The only reason Uganda has not recorded any deaths is because few cases have been admitted to hospital. This has enabled hundreds of health workers concentrate on the few cases which has increased their chances of surviving and not developing any serious complications,” he added.

According to Dr Wayengera, the country had a close call when one of the positive cases who was diabetic developed complications and could easily have become a serious case.

“The only reason that cases did not become severe is because there were health workers monitoring the case 24/7. In case something changed, there was someone to do something,” said Dr Wayengera.

According to doctors, persons with pre-existing conditions like diabetes, asthma, hypertension are more susceptible to getting severe forms of COVID-19.

Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, the Minister of Health says that the country’s lack of deaths could be attributed to the low numbers of positive cases that have been reported. To date, 217 active cases are receiving treatment and are being managed by a team of over 400 health workers country wide.

“We have a total of 281 and 69 of these have recovered and have been discharged from hospitals. We have experienced doctors who are dedicated to treating our patients and any other morbidity that they might have,” said Dr Aceng.

Data from the health ministry shows that at least 25 percent of the confirmed cases had pre-existing conditions. Hypertension followed by HIV were the most common conditions noted with 27 percent and 20 percent of the cases. Seven percent had diabetes and different cancers.

Dr Aceng also adds that Uganda’s history in handling previous disease outbreaks like Ebola and Marburg gave Uganda an added advantage compared to other countries on the continent and the East African region.

A World Health Organisation (WHO) model recently predicted that as many as 190,000 deaths could be recorded on the continent after one year of COVID-19 if countries do not put in place measures to stop the spread of the disease.

Similarly, Dr Matsidhiso Moeti, the WHO Africa region director says the belief that many African countries have poor health systems isn’t, Uganda and Rwanda have some of the best health systems on the African continent which could be the reason why both countries are yet to report cases of the diseases.

Last month, during a national address on COVID-19, President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni said that health ministry officials were going to start carrying out verbal autopsies to try and determine whether some reported deaths during the out break might have been infected with COVID-19.

While appearing at Radio Talk show this morning, Dr Micheal Kyobe, the COVID-19 Incident manager said that the country had not started looking into the deaths. He says he doubts that there have been deaths that are associated to COVID-19 that have gone unnoticed.

“We have a very robust surveillance system and it is unlikely that we could have lost all those people if they had COVID-19 and we did not detect them,” he said.

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