Uganda: How Govt Performed On Lockdown Promises

Today marks 21 days since President Museveni instituted a 42-day nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of Covid-19 as the country battles the second wave of the pandemic.

Halfway into the lockdown, the country remains in the midst of a challenging battle that has strained the health system, claimed thousands of lives, brought the economy to its knees and wiped out livelihoods.

When he announced the lockdown on June 18, President Museveni said the major goal of the second lockdown was to break the transmission cycle of the virus that had reached every corner of the country.

"Government will aim at reducing the speed and the intensity of transmission to within the next 42 days. The movement of individuals fuels virus transmission," President Museveni said.

To achieve this, the President banned public gatherings in various places identified as hotspots for transmission including public transport, businesses in down town Kampala, learning institutions and extended the ban on entertainment places including bars, and cinemas and instituted a 9pm to 5.30am curfew.

The Minister of Health, Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, however, said the results of the lockdown on the spread of the virus would be seen in a month's time due to the long incubation period.

Projections by the ministry indicate that the country will reach the peak of the second wave between July and August before cases start to drop. The current lockdown will expire on July 30.

As of July 5, Uganda has registered 84,979 cases and 2,012 deaths.

However, Science and Technology minister, Dr Monica Musenero, who is also President Museveni's senior adviser on epidemics, yesterday said: "The lockdown has achieved its objectives. Many people are putting on masks.

However, the ability of the population to voluntarily social distance is still low but the lockdown has helped in this regard because of enforcement."

She added: "The objectives of the lockdown was to push the cases down so that we can release pressure on the health facilities. After 21 days [of lockdown], we expected the curve to go down. The testing rate is not the same, but we compare the numbers by positivity rate. We expect the rates to consistently go down. We don't expect the deaths to immediately start going down because most of the people who got infected before lockdown would still be in hospital and critically ill... "

LoP speaks out

However, the Leader of Opposition (LoP) in Parliament, Mr Mathias Mpuuga, questioned government's failure to provide relief food to citizens affected by the lockdown and accused government of mishandling of the Covid-19 response.

On delayed Covid-19 cash, Mr Mpuuga said: "At this rate, the people in government need to be honest and seek help... we cannot be lethargic like they are. We know where the poor are, we know where those who need food are. You do not need a PhD in commonsense to find people who need food."

The objectives of the lockdown, according to Ministry of Health officials, were to continue with vaccination exercise, solve the oxygen crisis by installing more plants and increase the capacity of health facilities to handle Covid-19, while sustaining the continuity of essential health services.

The other pledges were to ensure enhanced risk communication, streamline home based care.

Dr Aceng speaks out

While appearing before the Parliament Taskforce Committee on Covid-19 yesterday, Dr Aceng said: "Some progress has been made in meeting the objectives of the lockdown."

The committee members, however, faulted the ministry for delayed vaccination exercise on which the return to normalcy is hinged.

Mr Abdu Katuntu, the committee chairperson, tasked the ministry to present the costs required regardless of the amount.

To date, a total of 20.8 million Ugandans have not been vaccinated even as the pandemic continues to kill people on a daily basis.

Dr Aceng, however, acknowledged persisting challenges in the government response to the pandemic citing limited bed capacity and number of staff, high costs of logistics and the long process of procuring vaccines.

Dr Mukuzi Muhereza, the general sectary of Uganda Medical Association (UMA) said: "As a clinician, there are some positives. The numbers are reducing, ICU beds are becoming more available, increased oxygen capacity. But there is a reduction in numbers of other diseases and we are asking where are they (patients). By history, I don't think next wave will find us any better."

Dr Aceng said her ministry provided testing kits to government facilities that offer free testing, and that plans are underway to procure a total of 10,000 beds for public health facilities.

The minister acknowledged that an increasing number of critical and severe patients has put a strain on bed availability in all facilities, with public facilities full.

By Nobert Atukunda, Tony Abbet, Arthur Arnold Wadero and Elizabeth Kamurungi

Source: The Monitor


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