Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Ministry of Health has launched a survey to establish how widespread COVID-19 infections are in the country. The survey will determine how many people might have been infected with the disease in the past year.
The survey comes at a time when the country is experiencing a drop in the number of COVID-19 infections reported. In the last week, an average of 10 cases has been reported daily. This is a big reduction from an average of 80 cases reported every day three months ago.
According to the health ministry, the study will help give a better understanding of how the disease has progressed in the country. It will also identify which ages and genders are more prevalent to the disease, risk factors for severe disease and also define the rate of symptomatic and asymptomatic infections.
During the survey, both blood work and questionnaires will be used to determine whether people have suffered from COVID-19 in the recent past.
During the launch of the survey on Tuesday, the health minister Dr Jane Ruth Aceng said the survey will a big role in identifying clusters of the disease.
“We are aiming at unmasking silent clusters that may have gone undetected to guide national response efforts. We shall be able to understand the extent of virus penetration over the past year and define the emerging risk categories. You will recall that during the two Rapid Assessment Surveys; the Ministry was able to identify the risk categories and this guided the response till now, “Aceng said.
Lt. Col Dr Henry Kyobe, the national COVID-19 incident commander says the survey will answer the question of whether Uganda is COVID-19 free or not.
“The only way we can know why we have been reporting few cases is through this. The survey will help us know whether we might have gained herd immunity due to many people being infected or whether we have cases going unreported,” he said.
Kyobe however hurriedly says that even if the results from the survey show that the country might have gained herd immunity, he emphasizes the need to continue following Standard Operating Procedures.
“Herd immunity does not protect you when it comes to the new variant. Studies show that people who have been infected with the current strain of COVID-19 we have can also be re-infected with the variant. So we need to take care and adhere to the public health measures,” he adds.
This will be the third survey the country is carrying out since the first COVID-19 cases were declared in the country in March 2020. The first and second surveys revealed there was no community transmission in the country by July. However, they helped identify risk categories that have helped guide the country’s response to date.
The health ministry did not reveal how much the survey would cost but said it was being funded primarily by the African Center for Disease Control and the African Union.