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National Address on COVID19 indicates an increase in positivity rate as Uganda battles 3rd Wave

Health

National Address on COVID19 indicates an increase in positivity rate as Uganda battles 3rd Wave

105 COVID 19 patients have been admitted in different facilities in the last 24 hours, the Minister of Health Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng has said.

Currently, there are 538 patients admitted to various public health facilities and non-traditional isolation units.

Of the 538 patients, 383 patients are admitted at different public health facilities around the country while 155 patients are at Jinja Prison (one of the non-traditional isolation units).

As of 5th January 2022, the country had registered 151,762 cumulative confirmed COVID-19 cases, 98,659 recoveries, and 3,333 deaths due to COVID 19.

Minister Aceng in her national address on Friday also noted that in the last 14 days, Uganda has registered 19,413 confirmed cases, giving a daily average of 1,386 cases. However, in the last 7 days (from December 29th to January 04th, 2022), Uganda has registered 11,222 confirmed cases with an average positivity rate of 20.9%.

This is a 37% increase in the number of cases and a 4.8% increase in positivity rate compared to the previous week (of December 22nd to 28th 2021) where cases were 8,191 and the average positivity at 16.1%.

“Furthermore, in the last 7 days, we have observed increased transmission rates across the country. The districts with the highest Attack rates of above 30 per 100,000 population include: Kampala (340), Moroto (94), Kiruhura (89), Kyotera (85), Soroti (78), Wakiso (65), Mbarara (58), Gulu (58), Luwero (50) Amuru (42) and Kibuku (38)” said Minister Aceng.

She added that her Ministry has moved from the period of sustained containment where the positivity rate was below 5 0/0 with the country now in its third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The positivity rates have consistently increased since December 11th, 2021 from a weekly average positivity rate of 0.9%, to 3.9% in the second week of December 2021, to 11.4 % in the third week of December 2021, and to 23.3% in the fourth week of December 2021 moving into January 2022.

The country has moved to this new transmission wave due to factors such as; limited adherence to SOPs in most of the places, crowding in social places especially during the festive season, the misconception that once vaccinated SOPs no longer apply and abuse of the requirements to Isolate when found positive for COVID 19.

“This recent development has taught us that, the more we continue to downplay and act outside the guidelines issued by Ministry of Health, the more we will continue to be inflicted by COVID 19 and to suffer all the disruptions from returning to our normal lives. This rise in positivity rates depicts the increase in community transmission which began days after the imported Omicron variant cases were registered in the country. We have observed variations in positivity rates across the different categories of people being tested: highest amongst contacts, followed by alerts those who develop symptoms with no history of contact and health workers” she added.

COVID-19 Vaccination

According to Dr. Aceng, the Government of Uganda continues to prioritize COVID-19 vaccination as a strategic intervention to protect the population from the severe effects of COVID-19 and control the spread of the pandemic including the new variants.

So far, 12,085,428 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered to the population. To date, 10,315,951 of the 22 million priority persons have received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccines, and 2,236,544 are vaccinated using the J&J vaccine while 1,769,477 have received the second dose of their initial vaccine and are therefore fully vaccinated.

Considering it requires only one dose of J&J to be fully vaccinated, Uganda has fully vaccinated 4,006,021 people (a vaccination coverage of 18.2%).

Vaccine Boosters for Priority groups

“I wish to extend my appreciation to H.E the President for taking his booster dose and encouraging all those above 50 years of age to get their booster doses. A booster dose is a dose of vaccine that is given to someone who is already fully vaccinated after a specified period, in this case, 6 months. This offers additional protection against the threat of the new COVID-19 Variants like Omicron.”

In her last address, Aceng had indicated that her ministry will start giving booster doses to those who are ready to receive them beginning February 2022 except for the elderly who have already started. However, following the directive of H.E the President, the Ministry of Health will administer booster doses of the COVID19 vaccine to the elderly aged 50 years and above, security personnel, health workers, teachers both in pre-primary, primary, secondary, and post-secondary institutions, Boda Boda riders, drivers and conductors of all Passenger Services Vehicles (PSVs), bar and night club workers, market workers and vendors, religious leaders, and Media.

“We shall add Health workers, Teachers, and the Security Forces now, to the elderly while the rest will come on board at the end of March 2022. The aforementioned groups of people were recommended for booster doses due to their high level of contact with the other members of the public during their day-to-day activities. The recommended groups are eligible for the booster if they completed their primary vaccine series at least 6 months ago” she said.

Implementation of vaccination mandate;

Hon. Dr Aceng says the Rt. Hon. Prime Minister will coordinate the various Ministries (Gender Labor and Social Development, Health, Transport, Education, and Justice and Constitutional Affairs to identify sectors that want to implement the vaccine mandate and those that have already been advised to.

The inter-ministerial team will also put in place guidelines for implementation of the mandate. This will be communicated to the public as soon as possible including dates for commencement of the various sectors. In the meantime, the vaccine mandate for the teachers continues.

  • Following H.E the President’s address on New Year’s eve where he directed the Ministry of Health on enforcing the Vaccination mandates for the Transport sector, I would like to guide as follows; All passengers aged 18 years and above must present proof of vaccination with at least the first dose, before they can access or use Passenger Service Vehicles (PSV) around the country.
  • At the end of March 2022, passengers will be required to present vaccination certificates showing their full vaccination status since adequate time has been given to receive the second dose.
  • Passengers below 18 years of age should be allowed to access PSVs given that they don’t fall among the 22 million people who are targeted for the COVID-19 vaccination.
  • All travelers must adhere to the Standard Operating Procedures i.e. mandatory wearing of masks and hand sanitizing

She also noted that the Ministry of Health is working on a system that will be able to validate vaccination cards of all those vaccinated by the Ministry of Health. This will enable the Ministry to apprehend all those who attempt to falsify or forge their vaccination status.

Measures of Safe Re-opening of schools

President Yoweri Museveni announced the re-opening of schools starting on Monday, 10th January 2022. The Ministry of Health has been working with the Ministry of Education and Sports to put in place guidelines for the safe return of learners.

These include; school readiness for early identification, reporting, isolation, and management of COVID-19 cases, and care for mental and psycho-social wellbeing of the school population. Alongside this, the guidelines include COVID-19 surveillance in schools, and training on these guidelines started last year, 2021.

She called upon all headteachers, leaders and teachers to involve, consult and communicate with the communities actively, transparently and widely, in order to ensure a smooth transition back to schools, where no one is left behind.

“I also want to bring to the attention of the public that we have received information that some schools are directing students to do COVID-19 tests before being accepted to report back to school. The Ministry of Health would like to guide that testing of learners prior to going back to school or on arrival is not an official position of the COVID-19 National task Force. Testing before returning to school is not necessary because it’s only beneficial when there is a history of contact or symptoms. Mass testing would not guarantee any infection among the tested because some could be in the early stages. Mass testing is effective if done frequently like every week which is not sustainable and not a guarantee for ensuring no outbreak” said the minister.

The Ministry, therefore, advises the School administrations to desist from demanding that learners do COVID-19 tests and/or charge any money for COVID-19 testing for learners returning to school. Where a situation arises and learners in a school need to be tested because of the soaring numbers of symptomatic cases identified through the school surveillance system, the Ministry of Health will undertake this exercise.

She further reminded school heads to build and maintain strong collaboration with health facilities and workers near their institutions and constantly seek guidance and support from their respective district COVID-19 District Taskforces.

Aceng reminded all education institutions, and the public to comply with His Excellency’s directive to vaccinate all teachers and non-teaching staff who are 18 years and above before returning to school. Local Governments and Schools should continue to mobilize and remind these populations to go for vaccination, at the nearest vaccination site.

“Learners 18 years and above should be accepted back to school whether vaccinated or not. It’s easier for them to be identified and vaccinated when at school. Schools should make effort to have them vaccinated using the health facility/ vaccination center nearest to them

COVID-19 Testing at the major points of entry. This is currently being carried out by authorized private laboratories at recommended Government rates of 25USD as Government sets up systems to carry out mandatory testing”.

After sample removal, the truck drivers and other travelers are allowed to continue with their journey and if found positive they are notified and linked to respective district health jurisdictions for follow-up or allowed to exit the country in the case of truck drivers.

All positive samples are sent to the National COVID- 19 reference laboratory for genomic sequencing.

The Minister appealed to the general public to embrace the COVID-19 vaccination exercise. With the evolving epidemiological picture, Minister Aceng appealed to the elderly who had been fully vaccinated to go for booster doses. Those who have not taken any jab should do so with urgency.

“I call upon the Technical Multi-Sectoral Taskforce and District Task Forces to ensure that they enforce adherence to the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) since it is the only way one can protect their loved ones from being infected with COVID-19. The COVID-19 vaccine is safe, effective, and free. It will protect you and your loved ones from the devastating effects of COVID-19.”

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