New infection figures show that the COVID-19 situation in Uganda is rapidly changing, forcing the government and scientists to reconsider their strategy, especially in the capital here, a local virus hotspot.
The East African country over the weekend recorded its highest daily cases after inmates at one of the prisons tested positive for the virus. The country recorded 318 cases, the highest daily number since the index case was registered on March 21.
As of Aug. 23, the country has a total of 2,263 confirmed cases, 1,226 recoveries and 20 deaths, according to Ministry of Health figures.
The Kampala Metropolitan Area has the highest numbers of community transmission; with a total of 401 COVID-19 cases and six deaths registered within the last week.
Cumulatively, according to the Health Ministry, a total of 599 COVID-19 cases, including 16 deaths have been reported in Kampala since March 23.
Uganda had been praised for taking some of the strictest measures in stopping the spread of COVID-19.
In March, the country instituted a lockdown, which included closing the border entry and exit points to international travelers except for cargo, closing schools, and banning public and private transport except for essential workers, among others.
The country also has a night curfew.
Economic experts, including the World Bank, warned that Uganda’s tough stance would adversely affect the country’s economy.The country’s President Yoweri Museveni insisted that human life is more important than the economy.
Over time, the country started easing its lockdown measures.
Figures, including those released by the country’s Ministry of Finance showed that the economy had started exhibiting signs of recovery.
Private and public transport reopened, shopping malls resumed operations, and wearing a facemask while in public was made mandatory.
As the easing occurred, international financiers like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) extended support to Uganda to help with the economic recovery.
On June 29, the World Bank approved a 300 million-U.S.-dollar budget support for Uganda to help the country mitigate the impact of the pandemic.
The IMF on May 6 approved a 491.5 million-dollar disbursement to Uganda to address what it called urgent balance-of-payments and fiscal needs occasioned by the pandemic.
Meanwhile, the government emphasized the necessity of social distancing, hand sanitizing and wearing face masks.
As the recovery journey started, the virus also spread rapidly despite calls to the public to adhere to the ministry of health standard operating procedures.
The ministry is now warning that the country has reached a critical stage in the fight against the pandemic.
Minister of Health Ruth Aceng recently said that if the COVID-19 cases continue to increase, the health sector would be overwhelmed, and the situation could worsen.
“The COVID-19 situation is rapidly changing in Uganda. COVID-19 is real, it’s highly infectious and it kills. It’s our responsibility to stop this catastrophe,” said Aceng.
Minister of Works and Transport Katumba Wamala last week warned that the government would re-impose a ban on public transport over violation of COVID-19 prevention procedures.
Wamala said public commuter taxi operators and other motorists are flouting the standard operating procedures.
“With the increasing cases of community transmission, we may be forced to halt public transport,” he said.
Museveni last week said that he would this week issue new regulations to curb the rapid spread of the virus.
It is widely believed that the government is likely to re-impose a lockdown in order to get a firm grip on the fight against the pandemic.