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Ugandan Medics test positive for Covid-19 as skyrocketing cases blamed on untested passengers

By Melodie Mukansonera

A Ugandan undergoes a COVID-19 test at one of the testing centers. Photo by AP.

Uganda’s Ministry of Health announced recently that seven frontline health workers tested positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19) amidst skyrocketing numbers of people infected – a situation, independent analysts say, that is a result of up to 17,000 people that passed through Entebbe Airport untested and un-quarantined.

According to the ministry, of the seven health workers, two are a lead nurse and a medical officer from Lira Regional Referral Hospital and have since been admitted at Entebbe Regional Referral Hospital. The other infected medics are admitted at Mulago Specialized Hospital.

Reacting to the development, Entebbe Hospital Director Dr. Moses Muwanga was quoted by the media saying that that the Lira Hospital staff are stable and under close monitoring. The Hospital currently has 45 patients, and among those, the biggest percentage are said to be truck drivers. However, Ugandan media quoted the Deputy President of Uganda Medical Association, Dr. Stephen Ayella hinting that inexperience and staffing shortfalls are possible leads for infections of the Lira Hospital medics. Dr. Ayella said the team of 14 health workers has never handled an infectious disease like Ebola or COVID-19, and they were also overwhelmed after receiving 21 patients in five days.”

Problems, however, aren’t merely about “inexperienced staff”, as an analysis of the situation in Uganda will show.

Back in April for instance, the Ministry of Health said it was tracing over 17,000 people who had flown into Uganda from Covid-19 worst hit countries – between March 7 and 22 – without undergoing mandatory quarantine and testing. By then, the Health Minister, Dr. Jane Aceng said flight manifestations indicated that a total of 18,860 travellers arrived in Uganda in the said period. However, only 1026 have undergone mandatory quarantine and testing.

This laxity in enforcing testing and quarantine – widely attributed by media to “corrupt practices by government officials” – has worried very many as a cause for widespread infections in Uganda. Another medic who on condition of anonymity commented on the situation said: “The possibility of multiple-fold infections increased from the time multitudes of people entered the country without testing, yet others were paying to be let out of the quarantine before time and some even escaping from quarantine.

“You remember the case of the Asians… such a situation had to trickle down to medics in remote areas that are not well equipped, or skilled to handle such situations!”

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