The Ministry of Health would like to update the general public on the progress of the country’s enhanced measures to prevent the importation of Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) into the country.
On December 31 st 2019, The People’s Republic of China notified the World Health Organization (WHO) of an outbreak of a Pneumonia-causing illness that was later confirmed to be due to the novel corona virus (COVID 19). On 30 th January 2020, WHO declared this outbreak as a Public Health Event of International Concern (PHEIC).
This outbreak has now spread to all continents and over 92 countries and 9 territories and areas are currently affected. Out of the 92 countries, WHO reports that over 30 have local transmission of COVID-19, including sustained community transmission.
According to WHO, local transmission indicates locations where the source of infection is within the reporting location.
Current Global Situation
As of 7 th March 2020, more than 101,828 confirmed cases have been reported globally, with over 3,483 deaths.
In Africa, eight countries have reported cases of COVID19. These are; Egypt, Algeria, Nigeria, Tunisia, Senegal, South Africa, Cameroon and Togo. The possibility of spread to other African countries, Uganda inclusive is extremely high. Although Uganda has no cases of COVID-19, the risk of importation remains high.
Uganda’s Current Situation
Uganda has no confirmed case of COVID-19 as of 7th March 2020. However, to date, a total of 1,296 travellers, Chinese, Ugandans and others travelling back home have been identified as high-risk and identified for purposes of follow up. A total of 765 travellers are under self-quarantine, of which 456 have completed the mandatory 14 days of self- isolation.
So far, samples from 20 persons who presented with signs and symptoms similar to that of COVID-19 have been tested. All tested negative.
Uganda remains at high risk of importation of COVID-19 from the affected countries. This is mainly due to travel, trade, and social linkages with the affected countries as Uganda maintains an open-border policy.
In order to reduce the risk of importation of the COVID-19, the Ministry of Health is undertaking the following measures;
1. Screening of all passengers entering through Entebbe International Airport and other border points of entry which include; Busia, Malaba, Cyanika and Egeru.
2. All travellers coming from the COVID-19 affected countries are required to undergo mandatory self-quarantine for 14 days.
To further strengthen the prevention measures, the Government of Uganda has reviewed the evolution of the outbreak in the affected countries outside China, categorized them and recommends several measures for the different categories.
Criteria used for Categorization
Three criteria were used to rank the countries; the criteria were weighed based on their importance in assessing the risk of importation from affected countries.
1. The number of total (cumulative) cases: The higher the number of cumulative cases, the higher the chances of exportation of COVID-19 cases.
2. Number of cases in the last 24 hours: This is a measure of active transmission of COVID-19 in the countries.
3. Exponential increase in cases in the last 7 days – This is an indication of community transmission of COVID-19. This was measured indirectly by the percentage increase in the number of cases in the last 7 days.
The countries that had a cumulative number of cases of more than 100 and/or had more than 10 new cases of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours (total of 19) were ranked using the above criteria and scoring.
People residing in the following 7 countries (Italy, Iran, South Korea, France, China, Germany, and Spain) should consider postponing non-essential travel to Uganda.
A traveller from these countries, including Ugandan nationals will be subjected to self-quarantine for 14 days on arrival to Uganda even if they do not exhibit symptoms of COVID-19.
Additionally, individuals highlighted in category 1 who insist on visiting Uganda will be subjected to self-quarantine or institutional (health facility) quarantine at their own cost.
For the following countries (UK, Switzerland, Norway, Netherlands, Sweden, Belgium, India, and the USA), the Ministry of Health will observe the travellers very closely and the evolution of the outbreak in these countries and advise on any restrictions in the coming weeks.
The rest of the countries will undergo the routine screening upon arrival and be advised accordingly on the measures to undertake while in the country to prevent infection and where to report if not feeling well.
This analysis will be reviewed weekly and the travel advisory updated accordingly.
Any of the above countries that successfully contain the outbreak will be removed from this list after 14 days with no new cases.
Advisory on the postponement of International Meetings and conferences The Ministry of Health would also like to inform the general public that all international conferences slated to take place in Uganda have temporarily been postponed due to the looming threat of COVID19.
This decision was reached following extensive consultations with key experts from the Ministry of Health- Uganda, WHO and US CDC coupled with the latest available evidence.
The experts assessed the risk of global meetings on the importation and spread of COVID-19 in Uganda as very high due to the following reasons:
a. This being a new virus, there is no immunity in the population the majority of the people are vulnerable.
b. The international events will bring people from many of the already affected countries.
c. It is challenging, if not impossible, to avoid crowding and congestion during such large meetings.
Additionally, the United Nations has postponed a number of planned international events.
Given the above evidence, the Ministry of Health thus recommends that International meetings and conferences in Uganda should be postponed to a later date subject to the COVID-19 evolution and risk assessment.
Furthermore, the Ministry of Health has developed guidelines for mass gatherings that the public should adhere to.
The Ministry of Health defines mass Gatherings as concentration of people at a specific location for a specific purpose over a set period of time. There is ample evidence that mass gatherings can increase the risk of transmission of infectious diseases such as Coronavirus (COVID 19).
• Sporting events e.g. football matches, betting
• Religious events e.g. Prayer congregations, crusades, pilgrimages etc
• Social/Cultural events e.g. funerals, weddings
• Political events e.g. rallies, campaigns, national events
All organizers of mass gatherings MUST make adequate preparations before hosting an event to protect the participants from contracting COVID-19 as stipulated below.
1. The organizers should designate a competent person to liaise with the Health authorities for advice during the organization of events.
2. Ensure provision of adequate handwashing facilities with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub.
3. People with flu-like symptoms and who are unwell should stay at home in a well-ventilated room and should NOT BE ALLOWED to access the s premises of the gathering.
4. Organizers should plan for cleaning and disinfecting frequently used communal places (like bathroom and toilet surfaces) and frequently touched surfaces such as doorknobs/handles, car doors and elevator buttons with disinfectant or soap.
5. Organizers should provide adequate waste management facilities (dustbins, cans, bin-liners single-use tissues) and properly protected/trained waste handlers.
6. Provide information on prevention of COVID-19 to participants
The following Mandatory facilities must be in place at all Mass Gathering sites
1. Toilets/latrines: 1 stance for every 20 participants
2. Handwashing facilities: Running water and soap
3. Waste management facilities
4. Adequate ventilation with proper air circulation
5. At least 05 Infrared thermometers for temperature screening
6. Health desk with Health workers to monithe health safety standards. Follow the guidance of health care workers at all times.
7. Access to evacuation facilities for sick participants like ambulances
8. First Aid kits
The Ministry of Health continues to emphasize the following preventive measures;
1. AVOID HAND-SHAKING AND HUGGING AT ALL TIMES.
2. Avoid close contact with people who are visibly sick with flu-like symptoms (fever, cough, sneeze).
3. When sick with flu-like symptoms avoid going to public places, offices and public gatherings. Remain at home to avoid infecting others.
4. You do not need to wear medical masks if you do not have respiratory symptoms such as cough, sneezing or running nose.
5. Don’t take self-medication such as antibiotics.
6. Do NOT spit in public. Find a secluded place like toilets or pit latrines in which to spit.
7. Delay travel to countries that currently have many patients with COVID-19. If you MUST travel, please follow the protective measures.
8. Avoid travel if you have flu-like symptoms.
The Ministry of Health would like to caution the general public from spreading falsrumoursrs and misinformation. Always verify information from the Ministry to avoid spreading falsrumoursrs which may cause unnecessary anxiety.
The public is also advised to report any suspected cases to the nearest health facility or call our toll-free lines on 0800-203-033 and 0800-100-066 or the following officers – Mr. Atek Kagirita 0782 909 153, Dr. Allan Muruta0772 460 297.