The Ministry of Health has clarified that the new variant strain (501. V2) of SARSCoV-2 that has been reported in the United Kingdom, other parts of Europe and now South Africa and Nigeria is not yet in Uganda.
The variant has been shown to spread much faster but so far no evidence of high severity than the first strain.
“So far, we know that the new variant strain is spreading faster than what we experienced in the 1st wave. It is important to note that this new variant strain has NOT been reported in Uganda” Joyce Moriku Kaducu the state minister for primary healthcare says.
The Ministry of Health working with regional partners, Africa CDC through Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) will start genome surveillance for the new strain to determine its prevalence in the country.
She however says they know that the transmission of the virus and the control measures remain the same as the virus in the 1st wave. i.e. Consistent mask use, social distancing and good hand hygiene.
Uganda is in phase 4 of the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning that there is intense and widespread community transmission of the virus in nearly all districts and with occasional and emerging hotspots.
Currently, Kampala remains the hotspot followed by the other emerging hotspots which are: Kabarole, Kasese, Lwengo, Kabale, Mbarara, Masaka and Lyantonde. “To date, we are reporting a weekly average of 3,600 cases emerging from 85 districts.”
As of 20th December 2020, the country has\d registered a total of 31,384 confirmed cases of COVID-19, 10,549 recoveries and a total of 238 deaths.
“In the past one month, we have recorded a total of 13,716 cases and 38 deaths. This is a high number and we are now witnessing patients quickly progress from moderate to severe forms of the disease. The strain on the health systems can only be reduced if the population adheres to the SOPs and this will lead to a reduction in the infections” Kaducu said.
The Ministry has developed guidelines to ensure proper treatment and packaging of COVID-19 victims’ dead bodies to ensure that they do not unduly expose the public to the risk of contracting infection.
“We therefore strongly recommend the following: All bodies shall be appropriately wrapped and put in a sealed coffin or body bag in line with Ministry of Health Guidelines for handling COVID-19 bodies prior to release to the family members, Family members MUST NOT at any point open the coffins or body bags, People carrying the coffin should don masks and gloves BUT DO NOT NEED TO put on coveralls and other Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)as we have consistently seen, Spraying of the ground and the air along the path of the body does not contribute to safety and is highly discouraged and SHOULD STOP” she said.