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What you didn’t know about Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Uganda.
In February 2020, the entire world was shaken following the outbreak of the COVID-19 disease and the resultant pandemic that forced most governments to shut their borders against travel, declare total lockdowns and restriction of movement, enforce the wearing of nose masks among other preventive measures employed. In Uganda for example, the government declared total lockdown and initially barred incoming flights into the country. Later as COVID-19 testing became more reliable and accessible, the government now requires all travelers to take COVID-19 tests, as a second wave of the pandemic hits the country.
Meanwhile, we are on the cusp of the third month of 2021 and the world is still reeling from the devastating COVID-19 pandemic caused by a novel virus called severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). This virus was formerly called 2019-nCoV and was first reported during an outbreak in the Wuhan City of Hubei Province in China in December 2019. The outbreak was first reported to the World Health Organization on 31 December 2019. However, the WHO declared it a global health emergency by January 2020, typifying the volatile nature of the virus. By 11 March 2020, the WHO declared the virus outbreak a global pandemic as hundreds of thousands of people became infected across North America, South America, Europe, Asia and Africa.
Presently, the global record of confirmed coronavirus cases stands at about 110 million people worldwide with 113,076,707 and 2,424,060 deaths as of 27 February 2021, according to data published by the WHO. On the other hand, data from Wordometer shows that 89,830,612 people have recovered from the disease by 27 February 2021. The same data also reports 114,268,724 coronavirus cases and 2,534,605 deaths for the same period.
Johns Hopkins University’s data shows that the US has recorded 28,540,400 coronavirus cases and 511,417 deaths related to the disease during the same period. Nigeria, on the other hand, has recorded 155,076 confirmed cases, 133,256 discharged and 1,905 deaths as of 27 February 2021.
Coronavirus in Uganda
The outbreak of the coronavirus was first reported in Uganda on 22 March 2020 when a 36-year-old male tested positive for the virus following a business trip to Dubai on 17 March 2020. After this index case, however, the ministry of health announced eight more cases on 24 March- all of which were traced back to the same flight that brought the index case into the country.
The government, attempting to be more proactive, shut down all schools and universities for an initial 30 days while public transport was suspended for 14 days. Private cars were allowed on the road but could only have a maximum of three occupants at a time, as the government looked to slow the spread of the virus.
As of 26 February, the ministry of health in Uganda has announced 334 deaths related to coronavirus in Uganda. On the other hand, the country has also recorded 14,616 recoveries and 40,335 cases. The numbers coming out of Uganda, in contrast to what is obtainable in the rest of the world like the US, Europe or even Nigeria, is relatively low and controlled. This may be partially explained by the proactive actions of the government right from the jump although numbers in African have been generally low compared to the rest of the world.
A timeline of Coronavirus in Uganda and early government response (Overview)
Before the confirmation of the first case of coronavirus in Uganda, the government had instituted certain measures to prevent and/or track the spread of the virus even before international flights were banned from category 1 countries. Uganda’s first reported case was on March 21, 2020, when a 36-year-old businessman from Kampala, Uganda’s capital, travelled to Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The man was said to have been in a healthy condition before his trip to the UAE; however, he showed flu-like symptoms and fever upon his return at the Entebbe International Airport (EIA). His sample tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the causative agent of COVID-19.
Because of this confirmation, the Ugandan Ministry of Health tracked people who had traveled to the UAE two weeks before the first case and mandated them to be placed in institutional quarantine. The number of cases in the country rose quite alarmingly to fifty-two in the two weeks following the identification of the index case although most of the cases were already in institutionalized quarantine as of that time.
A second rise in the number of coronavirus infections was observed towards the end of April and early May when the confirmed tally rose to 100 cases as of 6 May 2020 according to the Ministry of Health. Out of the 100 new cases, 89 cases were imported, eight were local transmissions and three were unconfirmed chains of transmission.
About 40 of the reported cases were truck drivers: 21 from Kenya, 14 from Tanzania, three Ugandans, one Eritrean and one Burundian. In addition to the numbers from the truck drivers who made trips into neighboring countries who had all recorded significant rises in cases as of then, two cases of local transmission were reported among men of the Ugandan Police Force, which indicated that there was an active community transmission of the virus. The indicators seemed to have been proven right as the total number of confirmed infected cases in the country as of 26 February 2021 would suggest.
In the following sections, we summarise coronavirus case numbers as reported by the Ugandan Ministry of Health.
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Detailed Timeline of Coronavirus in Uganda
March 5: The Ugandan government introduces airport screening for travelers returning into the country from foreign destinations.
March 11: The government mandates 14 days’ quarantine for passengers coming into the country from Category 1 listed countries.
March 18: Public gatherings including places of worship, pubs, weddings, music shows, rallies and cultural meetings were suspended temporarily for 32 days with immediate effect. The government gave a mandate to quarantine every foreigner and Ugandan arriving in the country for 14 days in hotel arrangements made by the government in Entebbe. Those affected, however, bore the cost of their stay.
March 22: The first case of coronavirus was confirmed in Uganda when a 36-year-old Ugandan tested positive for the virus following a business trip to the United Arab Emirates. As the index case, this confirmation led to the contact tracing of passengers of the flight that brought him into the country and mandatory quarantine and monitoring.
March 24: Health authorities confirmed eight more cases of the virus. These cases came up between 17 and 20 March aboard Ethiopian and Emirates flights, some on board the same flight as the index case. On this same day, all universities and schools were closed for 30 days in a more proactive preventive measure.
March 25: The Ugandan government temporarily suspended public transport for 14 days. Private cars were allowed to move on the road but could not have more than three occupants at a single time according to the government’s instructions.
March 26: Minister of Trade Amelia Kyambadde lamented that officers of the Ugandan Police Force were brutalizing citizens following the suspension of public transport and the closure of non-food markets by the government. She said, “There has been a misinterpretation of directives. I have been told that restaurants, arcades, salons, shops, supermarkets are being closed. That’s wrong. They should continue to operate as long as they are not in food markets. However, periodic markets that happen weekly are suspended. The exception is for those selling foodstuffs.”
March 30: The government declared a nationwide lockdown and restriction of movements in a bid to prevent the spread of the virus. The government also announced a curfew from 7 pm to 6:30 am, which was to last for 14 days. For the entirety of March 2020, Uganda recorded 44 cases.
April 14: One case reported at the Eastern border of Uganda and Kenya bringing the total number of cases to 55.
April 15: The government extended the mandated lockdown.
April 18: Uganda discharged six patients bringing the total to recoveries to 28
April 20: 10 more recoveries announced from Entebbe General Hospital bringing total recoveries to 38.
April 21: One case of coronavirus confirmed from 651 tested samples.
April 26: Four new cases reported of 1,578 samples tested from truck drivers at the border entry point.
April 29: Two new confirmed cases from 299 samples tested bringing the total number of cases to 81.
April 30: Two new cases confirmed from 1,579 tested samples. Uganda recorded 39 new cases and 52 recoveries in April.
May 2: Three new cases confirmed from 1,922 samples tested from truck drivers at the point of entry and 562 samples tested from the community.
May 3: One new case confirmed from 2,729 samples.
May 4: Eight new cases confirmed from 2,061 cases
May 5: Mandated lockdown was extended but restrictions were relaxed to allow for a measured resumption of business and movement.
May 8: 13 new cases confirmed from 2,421 samples tested.
May 11: One new case recorded from 2,296 samples from truck drivers bringing the total number of cases to 122.
May 18: 21 new cases recorded from 1,071 tested samples
May 20: Four new positive cases of coronavirus out of the samples that were tested
May 21: The president instructed the number of confirmed coronavirus cases to be reduced from 264 to 145 after removing foreign truck drivers who tested positive but had left the country.
May 22: 15 cases of coronavirus were confirmed from the 2,106 samples tested.
May 23: 23 new cases of the virus out of the 1,187 samples tested.
May 24: 11 new cases of coronavirus out of the 1,084 samples tested
May 25: 10 new cases of the virus out of the 1,189 samples tested.
May 28: 36 new coronavirus new cases we confirmed in Uganda out of the 2,230 tested samples.
Note: In May 2020, 375 new cases and 61 new recoveries were reported bringing the total number of cases to 458, the total number of recovered patients to 113, and the number of active cases at the end of the month to 345.
40 new coronavirus cases from 1,319 samples tested by the ministry of health on 31 May 2020 but this was reported in June.
The month of June recorded 431 new cases and 706 recoveries, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 889, the total number of recovered patients to 819, and the number of active cases at the end of the month to 70.
Uganda recorded 265 new cases in July, raising the total number of confirmed cases to 1,154. Three deaths were also recorded bringing the number of recovered patients increased by 209 to 1,028, leaving 123 active cases at the end of the month.
Uganda recorded 1,818 new cases raising the total number of confirmed cases to 2,972. There were 29 deaths during the month, raising the death toll to 32. At the end of the month, there were 1,652 active cases.
There were 5,045 new cases in September, raising the total number of confirmed cases to 8,017. The death toll more than doubled to 75. The number of recovered patients increased to 4,260, leaving 3,682 active cases at the end of the month.
There were 4,478 new cases in October, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 12,495. The death toll rose to 111. The number of recovered patients increased to 7,503, leaving 4,881 active cases at the end of the month.
There were 7,964 new cases in November, raising the total number of confirmed cases to 20,459. The death toll rose to 205. The number of recovered patients increased to 8,989, leaving 11,265 active cases at the end of the month.
Political campaigns for the Ugandan general election were suspended in Mbarara, Kabarole, Luwero, Kasese, Masaka, Wakiso, Jinja, Kalungu, Kazo, Kampala City and Tororo on 26 December to forestall large gatherings of supporters.
The Minister of East African Community Affairs, Kirunda Kivejinja, aged 85, died of Coronavirus on 19 December. Former Deputy Prime Minister Paul Orono Etiang also died from COVID-19 on 31 December, aged 82.
There were 14,757 new cases in December, raising the total number of confirmed cases to 35,216. The death toll rose to 251. The number of recovered patients increased to 11,733, leaving 23,232 active cases at the end of the month.
There were 4,390 new cases in January, taking the total number of confirmed cases to 39,606. The death toll rose to 325. The number of recovered patients increased to 14,229, leaving 25,052 active cases at the end of the month.
As of 26 February 2021, Uganda has recorded a total number of 40,335 cases with 14,616 reported to have recovered while 334 deaths have been recorded.
So, that is how coronavirus case numbers in Uganda have evolved since the first case was reported in March. The numbers are low compared to those obtained from Europe, America and Asia. Nevertheless, Ugandans are enjoined to continue heed advice from health officials to slow the spread of the coronavirus in our communities. The development of vaccines offers hope that the world could defend against the pandemic, however, it will still take several months or even years before most Ugandans can be vaccinated. Until then, our best bet remains to avoid large gatherings, social distance, wearing nose masks, among other recommendations from health officials. Most importantly, if you suspect that you might have been infected, isolate immediately for about 10-14 days and arrange to get tested, either at your local public health center or a private center like TestXpress.
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