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Health officials caution against upcountry travel during festive season

Dr Monica Musenero, a senior presidential advisor on epidemics

Kampala, Uganda |  THE INDEPENDENT | Health Specialists have cautioned Ugandans against travelling upcountry during the Christmas holiday to avoid the spread of COVID-19.  The warning breaks a long-standing tradition amongst Ugandans, many of whom travel upcountry during the Christmas and new year holiday, to celebrate with their families.

The specialists now fear that the Christmas holiday might end become a super spreader event for COVID-19 as numbers continue to surge, mainly from the urban centres. Dr Monica Musenero, a senior presidential advisor on epidemics says travelling home for Christmas is going to increase the number of reported cases in the country.

Dr Monica Musenero, a senior presidential advisor on epidemics says travelling home for Christmas is going to increase the number of reported cases in the country.

“…People are going to travel from Kampala and other towns that are reporting cases and will take the disease for their mothers and unsuspecting relatives in villages. These people in the villages have a very low level of suspicion. Many of them do not even wear masks,” she said.

Similarly, Dr Diana Atwine, the permanent secretary of the ministry of health also issued the same warning through her Twitter handle-@DianaAtwine. “As we work to stem the spread of COVID-19, you are encouraged not to travel for Xmas holidays because you don’t know your status. Protect your loved parents by staying around this festive season,” she said.

The warning comes as the country has experienced a spike in COVID-19 cases in the past few days. On Wednesday, the highest number of new cases reported in a single day was recorded after 1,199 people tested positive for the disease. Yet still, health officials are intimating that the reported cases do not represent the actual number of infected persons. 

Dr Charles Olaro, the Director of Curative Services at the Ministry of Health says that at the moment they estimated that only 10 per cent of infected cases are being detected. To be able to know the exact number of infected cases, Dr Olaro says more testing is needed.

Developed countries that have been experiencing a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases have been issuing similar messages. In the U.S, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention Thanksgiving guidelines urges people not to travel. In case they had to travel, families were asked to maintain small gatherings, avoid singing or shouting, wear a facial mask and avoid consuming alcohol.

In the U.K, only three households will be allowed to meet for five days during the festive season, from 23 to 27,2020. Persons will not be allowed to visit bars or restaurants in groups. Also, persons who have tested positive for the disease and are isolating at home are not allowed to socialise with family members during the allocated five days.

This will be the second Christian holiday where the faithful will not be able to celebrate with big families. In April, a few months after President Yoweri Museveni instituted a national lockdown, many Ugandans celebrated Easter within their homes, in small numbers, as travel was restricted.

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