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Uganda running out of personal protective equipment

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Uganda is running out of Personal Protective Equipment-PPE at hospitals according to the Ministry of health.  The Ministry’s PPE stock supplies status for the last week of April 2020 shows that the country’s PPE stocks are critically low and what is available cannot be enough for the country’s COVID-19 response plan for the next three months.

Sources from the Health Ministry attributed the lack of PPE to global shortages increased by global demand and ensuing constrained supply of critical logistics for COVID-19. There is growing demand world over for gloves, surgical masks, surgical N96 respirators, face shields, protective gear and test kit.

“The available stock of PPE and testing commodities at hand in Uganda is critically low and cannot last more than three months. What we have now can only last one month at the most,” the source told Uganda Radio Network.

As a result of the shortage, medical teams across the country have threatened to strike if they are not given PPE. Doctors from the Eastern branch of Uganda Medical Association located in Jinja said their strike will start tomorrow, Thursday according to Dr Mukuzi Muhereza, the secretary-general of Uganda Medical Association.

While addressing journalists today, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health advised health workers to start using re-washable masks as a way to deal with the shortages and prices associated with medical masks. On the open market, disposable medical masks cost 4,000 Shillings while the N95 respirators cost 25,000 Shillings.

“Those masks are very important. Another alternative that can be used are the re-washable masks,” Dr Atwine said.

In addition to the lack of PPE, reports from the health ministry officials show that the country is also facing a lack of testing material. Last week, Prof Pontiano Kaleebu, the Executive Director of the Uganda Virus Research Institute revealed that the country had run out of test kits. At the time, the available kits would only last for four days with an average of 2,000 tests being carried out on a daily basis.

Prof Kaleebu says that with the shortage of SARS-Cov-2 RT-PCR test kits, the country has resorted to using Genexpert machines that are usually used for testing Tuberculosis. The new tests will also give quicker results.

“We are now going to use Genexpert machines to test. All we have to do is modernize the cartridge to be able to test for the machine. The machine releases results within one hour,” Prof Kaleebu said.

According to the health ministry, the country has received donations of 15,000 Genexpert test kits that will be used as procurement for other kits and PPE is ongoing.

Atek Kagirita, the COVID-19 Incident commander at the the health ministry says that test kits and PPE orders have been made and will be delivered anytime.

“The government has been very supportive. We have made orders and are waiting for them to be delivered. Anytime from now, we shall have what we ordered for,” Kagirirta said.

At the moment, on average 1,500 tests are carried out on a daily basis, the majority of them going towards testing truck drivers. Uganda has so far confirmed 126 cases of COVID-19.

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