Covid-19 cases and hospital admissions in the country have sharply declined, contrary to predictions by scientists that campaigns for the January 2021 elections would accelerate the spread of the pandemic. The fears of increased infections due to high political activity and a modelling by experts at the Ministry of Health, prompted the Electoral Commission (EC) on December 26, 2020, to ban campaigns in sixteen districts, citing coronavirus red flag raised by scientists.
However, the Health ministry, between February 1 and 16, registered 496 new Covid-19 cases, an 87 per cent drop from the 3,820 cases reported within a similar period between November 1 and 16, the peak of the pandemic. The reduction in reported infections has correspondingly translated into declining hospital admissions of Covid-19 patients, according to surveys. Whereas the Health minister, Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, attributes the decline to the normal trend of a pandemic, Dr Nathan Onyaci, the director of Masaka Hospital, said people could have developed natural immunity to coronavirus.
Dr Aceng said the country reached the peak of the pandemic between November 2020 and early January 2021 and that this “represented the close of the first wave of the pandemic.”
“It is important, first to note that this phenomenon, characterizing peaking of an epidemic, is not unique to Uganda and that our scientists accurately predicted its occurrence after January 2021.
Regardless of the reliability of the biological and social explanations, it is important that Ugandans appreciate that the pandemic comes in waves,” the minister noted in a February 11 statement, her 16th address on the pandemic. She added: “The falling numbers, therefore, represent a punctuation consistent with emergence of what we shall consider as the second wave. This may initially occur as isolated surges in different communities and populations groups, only to later merge into another singular wave, nationally, Uganda, just like other countries globally, is therefore not yet safe.”
However, Dr Onyaci said: “People have not been wearing masks. So probably, the whole population is becoming (infected and) immune (to the virus). They (probably) got infected massively without many of them noticing since we have a youthful population. Probably, we are beginning to have herd immunity.”
Dr Richard Lukandwa, the director of Medipal, a private facility in Kampala which is treating Covid-19, said the decline in infections could have been caused by weather changes.
“It might be the weather because recent evidence shows that if the coronavirus is in direct sunlight, it stays for only eight minutes and we have been in the warm weather,” he said.
On Monday, World Health Organisation (WHO) reported that globally, cases had reduced from “five million in the week of January 4 to 2.6 million cases in the week starting February 8.”
However, in Uganda, the total number of Covid-19 tests being done daily has also declined.
The Ministry of Health statistics indicate that a total of 41,861 tests were done between November 1 and 16, 2020 almost twice the 28,718 samples tested between February 1 and 16, 2021. Dr Charles Olaro, the director of Clinical Services (Curative) at the Ministry of Health, admitted to this newspaper two weeks ago that testing capacity in the country had declined. But he did not give any reason.
“Before we went for elections, we were testing more than 4,000 or 3,000 (samples per day). But now we are testing around 2,000 samples (per day),” he said. Neither Dr Susan Nabadda, the commissioner of laboratory and diagnostic services, nor Dr Henry Mwebesa, the director general of health services, could be reached for comments by press time.