21 More Drivers Test Positive to COVID-19




Another 21 truck drivers have tested positive for Coronavirus Disease COVID-19, according to results released by the health ministry this morning. This brings the number of confirmed cases to 248.

At least 17 out of the 21 cases were collected at the Elegu point of entry, three were from Mutukula and one from Malaba. The tests were part of 1,324 that were carried out on Sunday. Dr Henry Mwebesa, the Director-General of Health Services says the delay in releasing the results was caused by a late start of testing at the Central Public Health Laboratory.

“Samples from truck drivers had to be sorted appropriately and divided between the Uganda Virus Research Institute and the National Health Laboratory Services by the laboratory teams for quick turn around. Testing at NHLS begun at 7:30 pm yesterday evening hence the delay in reporting results,” Dr Mwebesa said.

He adds that the health ministry is working towards installing Genexpert machines at points of entry in order to ensure that results are released on time. This will make sure that drivers know their COVID-19 status before they are allowed to enter the country.

NHLS is one of eight laboratories that will be testing for COVID-19 in the country. Testing at NHLS will be carried out using the Cobas 8800 which has the capacity to carry out 192 tests per hour. The laboratory yesterday received 15,000 PCR tests.

Globally, more than 4.7 million people have been affected by the pandemic and 315,000 killed. The World Health Assembly is starting today and has been dedicated to discussing how the global coordination of COVID-19 can be strengthened.


Two Security Officers Quarantined For Picking Money Dropped by Truck Driver



Two security officers have been quarantined at Gulu School Clinical Officers in Gulu Municipality after picking money dropped by a truck driver.

They include a male police officer and a female Uganda People`s Defense Forces-UPDF soldier who were deployed at Customs Corner along Gulu-Nimule highway on Sunday evening.

The Aswa River Region Police Spokesperson, Patrick Jimmy Okema told PRIME RADIO on Monday morning that the driver dropped two 10,000 Shillings notes at Customs Corner in Layibi Division Gulu Municipality along Gulu-Nimule Highway, which was picked by the officers.

He says residents who witnessed the incident immediately alerted Gulu Central Police Station leading to the arrest of the officers. They were immediately dragged into the quarantine center in Laroo division.

According to Okema, the truck driver who was destined for South Sudan wasn’t apprehended because had driven off by the time security arrived at the scene. Okema said police are also investigating why the trucker dropped the money for the officers.

Gloria Aloyo, the Gulu Coronavirus Taskforce Communication Officer, says there are currently 54 Covid19 suspects in the quarantine comprising 42 men and 12 female.

Last week, Acholi Regional Coronavirus Taskforce expressed concern about the uncontrolled waste disposal by truck drivers along major highways, saying that it could spread the corona virus disease to communities.

Michael Lakony, the Amuru District Chairperson, said picking materials dropped by the truckers exposes the community to infection.

According to available information, one can contract the virus by touching contaminated surfaces or objects.

The virus can last up to five days on metallic surfaces like doorknobs, jeweler, silverware, up to four days on wooden furniture, up to nine days on plastics which include among others; containers and bottles, bus seats, backpacks and elevator buttons and 2-3 days on Stainless steel surfaces like. It lasts 24 hours on shipping boxes.

Uganda has confirmed 248 coronavirus cases.


Stella Nyanzi, Four Others Arrested over Food Protest




Dr Stella Nyanzi and four others have been arrested for protesting against what they described as a slow distribution of food and human rights abuses.

Others arrested include events Promoter Andrew Mukasa alias Bajjo, Shallon Kemigisha, Badru Kasule and John Bosco Serunkuma. They were arrested on Monday near Buganda Road Court.

The protestors held placards reading, "Children are hungry”, "Stop the lock-down oba tuffa tuffe, We want food.

The Police Spokesperson for Kampala Metropolitan Area, Luke Owoyesigyire says that the group is currently detained at Central Police Station on charges of inciting violence.

Nyanzi was carrying a petition to the Prime Minister Dr Ruhakana Rugunda protesting against the continued human rights abuses by security agencies enforcing the Presidential COVID-19 directives and failure by the government to distribute food to several vulnerable people.

"Hunger and anger have spiked countrywide causing frightening levels of domestic violence and suicide, whereby women are the major victims. As women, we demand to return to work”, reads the petition in part.

The police and Local Defence Unit-LDU personnel have come under criticism for brutality especially while enforcing the curfew in different parts of the country.

They demanded that the government distribute relief food to all Ugandans, lift the lockdown and adjust curfew time from 9 pm, repatriate Ugandans stuck abroad and release suspects arrested for violating the COVID-19 directives.

Last week, Bajjo petitioned the High Court Civil Division seeking an order compelling government to distribute food to all citizens in the country.

Nyanzi’s lawyer Isaac Ssemakadde says that there's no legitimate basis for the arrest of the protestors. He says that government should respect the right to protest during a pandemic.


Truck Drivers Decry Hostility from Highway Communities




Truck drivers have expressed dismay at the hostility subjected to them by communities along the along the Eastern Route closer to the Uganda-Kenya border.

The hostility, they say, started with an increase in the number of Coronavirus cases recorded among truck drivers, mainly those entering the country from Kenya and Tanzania. In recent weeks, more than 100 truck drivers have tested positive to the virus, driving cases of coronavirus in the country now 248.

Kenya has recorded 887 cases of coronavirus with more than 50 deaths, while Tanzania has 509 cases and 21 deaths. Until recently Uganda was allowing drivers to continue with their journeys uninterrupted until their results are released by the Uganda Virus Research Institute. They were however advised to park in gazetted regional parking yards, in order to avoid contact with members of the community.

But despite the guidelines, a number of them continued to make stopovers in trading centres, for refreshments, bathroom moments and to fix their trucks, when they experience a problem on the road.

However, the stopovers have become a nightmare for many of them. They say that residents are now chasing them from almost every trading centre, accusing them of importing COVID-19. Those who reside within the districts of Bugiri and Iganga say that their families have equally turned them away and advised them to self-isolate.

Erisa Ofwoha, a driver from Busowa village says that he resolved to spend his weekends in the parking yard due to the fear of community reaction. “My neighbours who were once my friends nowadays refer to me as coronavirus. Now the only way of saving my family from public reproach,” he says.

Hussein Wegulo, a truck driver from Buikwe district says that some residents pelt stones at them at roundabouts and different security checkpoints. He says that even when they opt to use mobile money transactions for purchases, they are forced to flee before picking the goods they have duly paid for.

Edward Oryek, a supervisor from one of the transport companies asked the security organs to increase highway patrols in order to reduce the illegal parking believed to be a catalyst for hostility for truckers.

Busoga East Police Spokesperson James Mubi condemns the acts of violence subjected to truck drivers saying that local leaders should continuously sensitize the masses on the dangers of violence against truckers.


MOH Recieves PPE Donation Worth UGX 3.1B




The Ministry of Health has received Personal Protective Equipment-PPE worth 3.1 billion Shillings, thanks to the National Fellowship of Born Again Pentecostal Churches.

The donation, which comes amidst crises for PPE from health workers, includes 1500 boxes of gloves, 4200 boxes of N95 masks, overalls, pullover hoods, respirators and face shields.

Receiving the items, Dr. Diana Atwiine, the Ministry Permanent Secretary, said the donation is a huge boost to the Covid-19 fight since they are already challenged by the fact that there are shortages globally as countries struggle to contain the Coronavirus pandemic.

Dr. Atwiine however noted that as people continue to donate, there are concerns that the items don’t reach the intended recipients, something that they are worried might affect the contributions yet it’s untrue.

Dr. Atwiine said the ministry have already sent out food and medical supplies to different hospitals across the country, especially the border districts, which still have a big risk of infection owing to the fact that truck drivers who ply the region continue testing positive.

Apart from the medical supplies, hospitals also received items such as sugar, wheat flour, soap and detergents meant for use by patients and relatives of health workers that are currently quarantined together with COVID-19 patients who will not go home until they are tested and confirmed to be free from the virus.

As these donations were being received and others sent to health facilities in the country side, health workers under the Uganda Medical Association were threatening to strike if they can’t be availed with PPE.

Though N95 masks that keep away over 90% of disease causing pathogens are the ones recommended for use under hospital settings, Atwiine told PRIME RADIO that the ministry is advising health workers in local health facilities that are not handling COVID-19 cases to use cheaper and readily available reusable fabric masks.


Uganda Running Out of Personal Protective Equipment




Uganda is running out of Personal Protective Equipment-PPE at hospitals according to the ministry of health. The Ministry's PPE stock supplies status for the last week of April 2020 shows that the country’s PPE stocks are critically low and what is available cannot be enough for the country’s COVID-19 response plan for the next three months.

Sources from the Health Ministry attributed the lack of PPE to global shortages increased global demand and ensuing constrained supply of critical logistics for COVID-19. There is growing demand world over for gloves, surgical masks, surgical N96 Respirators, face shields, protective gear and test kit.

“The available stock of PPE and testing commodities at hand in Uganda is critically low and cannot last more than three months. What we have now can only last one month at the most," the source told PRIME RADIO.

As a result of the shortage, medical teams across the country have threatened to strike if they are not given PPE. Doctors from the Eastern branch of Uganda Medical Association located in Jinja said their strike will start tomorrow, Thursday, according to Dr Mukuzi Muhereza, the secretary-general of Uganda Medical Association.

While addressing journalists today, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health, today advised health workers to start using re-washable masks as a way to deal with the shortages and prices associated with medical masks. On the open market, disposable medical masks cost 4,000 Shillings, while the N95 respirators cost 25,000 Shillings.

“Those masks are very important. Another alternative that can be used are the re-washable masks,” Dr Atwine said.

In addition to the lack of PPE, reports from the health ministry officials show that the country is also facing a lack of testing material. Last week, Prof Pontiano Kaleebu, the Executive Director of the Uganda Virus Research Institute revealed that the country had run out of test kits. At the time, the available kits would only last for four days with an average of 2,000 tests being carried out on a daily basis.

Prof Kaleebu says that with the shortage of SARS-Cov-2 RT-PCR test kits, the country has resorted to using Genexpert machines that are usually used for testing Tuberculosis. The new tests will also give quicker results.

“We are now going to use Genexpert machines to test. All we have to do is modernize the cartridge to be able to test for the machine. The machine releases results within one hour,” Prof Kaleebu said.

According to the health ministry, the country has received donations of 15,000 Genexpert test kits that will be used as procurement for other kits and PPE is ongoing.

Atek Kagirita, the COVID-19 Incident commander at the the health ministry says that test kits and PPE orders have been made and will be delivered anytime.

“The government has been very supportive. We have made orders and are waiting for them to be delivered. Anytime from now, we shall have what we ordered for,” Kagirirta said.

At the moment, on average 1,500 tests are carried out on a daily basis, the majority of them going towards testing truck drivers. Uganda has so far confirmed 126 cases of COVID-19.



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