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Uganda Virus Research Institute yet to receive COVID-19 funding

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The government has not provided any funding to facilitate the activities of the Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The matter was brought to the attention of Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Friday by the Director of the Institute Prof. Pontiano Kaleebu. Kaleebu had led officials before the Committee to respond to audit queries raised by the Auditor-General in his report.

The institute which hosts a regional referral lab on influenza has been the sole research and testing facility for COVID-19 in the country.  But Kaleebu told legislators that they had to suspend all other activities for the third and fourth quarters and diverted 780 million Shillings from other research programs to fund COVID-19 work.

Kaleebu stated that the Institute presented a budget of USD 1.7 million (6.32 billion Shillings) to the Ministry of Health towards their COVID-19 related work but the funding has never been availed. He notes that most of the funding has come in from donors and partners like the World Health Organisation (WHO), Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Jack Ma Foundation.

But Frederick Angura the Tororo South MP was curious as to why the institute was neglected and yet the government had been availed a hefty Covid-19 response supplementary budget.

So far, Uganda has carried out over 140,000 coronavirus tests since the disease outbreak in March 2020.

PAC Vice Chairperson Okin Ojara asked Dr Kaleebu to explain about the state of COVID-19 cases in Uganda. Uganda has so far recorded 755 cases of COVID-19 over the last three months. Majority of these were recorded among truck drivers, who entered the country from Kenya, Tanzania and South Sudan.

Dr Kaleebu said that majority of the positive COVID-19 cases in Uganda are young people yet other countries have registered cases among the elder people with a medical history. He however said that it is not yet clear why Africa has mild cases compared to other continents except for the obvious reason of age.

However, Kaleebu said that they are proud that the institute’s work is appreciated especially during this pandemic.

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