Coronavirus in Uganda

28 Jan

Uganda has been affected by coronavirus with the first cases being confirmed in late March. In response, the Government quickly closed schools and banned public gatherings. Public transport was largely suspended and severe restrictions imposed on private transport. Some of these restrictions were a little odd. For example, motorbikes, which are an important part of public transport, were allowed on the roads up until 2pm but were not allowed to carry passengers at any time. Sam Watalatsu, KRDP’s representative, was able to obtain a permit which allowed him to drive his car within a defined part of the country. This allowed him to continue with his own work and that of KRDP. Rather than a complete lockdown, a curfew between the hours of 7pm and 6.30am was imposed. Food shops and supermarkets were allowed to remain open but open-air markets have been closed.

Now, in January 2021, lockdown restrictions are being eased. Schools have restarted for all pupils. Travel is now less restricted. Shops and businesses for non-food goods are now reopening. Public gatherings are allowed but with limits on numbers.

It is difficult to say what the impact has been on the country. Official figures from the World Health Organisation show around 40,000 confirmed cases and 318 deaths by mid-January 2021. Both could easily be optimistic numbers given the communication problems within the country and the limited availability of testing kits. However, in our regular contacts with friends, there has been no information shared to suggest a massive health problem. However, even if coronavirus is not a big problem, its knock on effects certainly are. Transport restrictions caused problems with food supplies, particularly in towns and cities. Even if food was available, people could not work if they could not travel and so had reduced levels of income. The spurious interest, in the early part of 2020, in chloroquine as a coronavirus treatment in some countries led to massive increases in costs. It is used, correctly, in Uganda as a malaria treatment but the increased cost  led to reduced usage for some months. More recently there has been a return to more normal conditions.  Similar problems have arisen with children’s vaccines for measles, diphtheria, tetanus and a range of other diseases. Some modelling by a team of UK and Swiss scientists in 2020 suggested that additional deaths from reductions in these vaccinations could be over 700,000 for the whole of Africa and would represent a more severe threat than coronavirus itself.

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