Covid-19 cases: Too early to celebrate, says Health Ministry

Over the past two weeks since President Museveni announced a virus induced lockdown to contain the surging Covid-19 cases, the number of people testing positive for Covid19 has been dropping.

As of June 5, figures from the ministry of health indicated a fall by more than half of the number of infected persons.

The ministry of health officials also indicated the cumulative number of recoveries had increased from over 52,000 to more than 79,000 over the past two weeks as well as the number of deaths reported per day which has since dropped.

Ministry of health officials have attributed this drop in figures to a number of initiatives that have been put in place, including the general public vigilance to report cases to authorities and health facilities as soon as they are suspected.

Mr Emmanuel Ainebyona, the Ministry of health spokesperson says that there has been a timely testing of people and evacuation of patients who are found positive to the health centers where they are attended to before it is too late.

“It is too early for us to call this a success but there are significant changes so far. Our health workers are doing everything to help the people. The frontline workers are doing their best and that is why there is that kind of change,” he said in an interview for this story.

Dr Diana Atwine, the ministry permanent secretary says there has also been a step up in the vaccination of Ugandans by the government, for instance she says Uganda received the first batch of 964,000 AstraZeneca vaccine in March, 2021 and over 800,000 people have since been vaccinated. An additional 175,200 doses arrived in country in June 2021.

“The vaccines from this batch have been delivered to all districts. This will be used to ensure that all health workers and those eligible for their second dose receive the vaccine. We have also installed ICU beds in Mulago NRH and Regional Referral Hospitals of Lira, Jinja, St. Mary’s Lacor, Mbale, Entebbe, Kawempe, Mbarara, Soroti, Naguru, Kabale, Hoima, Arua, Bombo, and Fort portal, Moroto, Mubende, and Gulu to support critical COVID cases. The beds available however, can never be enough if we do not control the infection rate, just like we have seen even in countries with stronger health systems. Therefore we advise you all to follow SOPs because critical care is stretched and it should not be you who is the victim of scarcity of beds,” She said.

By mid last month there was public outcry over shortage of medical oxygen needed for Covid-19 patients in critical conditions amid surging virus cases.

Health officials indicated that Covid patients take anywhere between 20 to 70 litres of oxygen per day depending on the condition they are in at the time of admission.

However, those that manufacture oxygen, according to reports, can only make up to 27.7 million litres of oxygen per day which appears to be slightly less than half of the current demand.

During this interview, Dr Atwine said the ministry has ensured the installation of oxygen cylinders in all referral hospitals and that the oxygen plants (15Nm3/hr) are now producing about 30 to 48 cylinders of 6800 litres of oxygen per day.

“We are procuring eight more oxygen plants (200Nm3/hr) to boost the existing capacity for Regional Referral Hospitals. Each cylinder will produce over 500 cylinders per day. Similarly, 2 more (250Nm3/hr) plants are being procured for Mulago and Namboole and additional 10,000 oxygen cylinders for mobile distribution. In the same vein, the ministry has acquired 98 type B and type C road ambulances and 3 boat ambulances distributed under a regionally coordinated ambulance service system to all the 14 regions in the country targeting 1 ambulance per health sub district. We are expecting 11more boat ambulances to be delivered next month,” Dr Atwine said.

Mr Ainebyoona also indicated that the fall in the figures of the critically ill people has been due to the circulation of information about the SOPs and the wearing of masks.

“Many people have adhered to the education and sensitization that has been shared to them in various forms and it is easy to find more people wearing masks. If the trend in the numbers continues to fall, we shall soon see that the lockdown restrictions are lifted,” he said.

Ministry of health figures indicate that last year the government distributed a total of 36,702,048 face masks to Ugandans. Of these, 34,109,085 masks were delivered to 135 Districts for distribution to their communities and 2,592,963 for distribution to school finalists.

 “We procured 20 sleeper tents to expand bed capacity for Regional Referral Hospitals for isolation of COVID-19 patients. Of these, two tents were delivered at Soroti, Lira, Gulu, Arua, Hoima, Kabale, Mubende and Fort Portal, and 1 to Entebbe Regional Referral Hospita and 3 allocated to the UPDF medical services. We are also opening the newly constructed Entebbe Isolation Center that has been built for management of such pandemics,” Dr Atwine said.

The ministry of health on Wednesday said Uganda’s virus cases had risen to 84,979 after 425 more people tested positive for Covid-19.

At least 17 more people have succumbed to Covid-19 as virus deaths on July 5, 2021 rose to 2,012 since March last year when the pandemic was first confirmed in the country.

So far 1,027, 036 vaccine doses have been administered with only 1,367, 622 tests conducted since the outbreak of the pandemic, in a country whose population is above 40 million people.

Since March last year, 57,964 people have recovered from the virus with 1,072 active case admitted to different health facilities around the country.