Uganda is seeing a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases, forcing its health officials to take stern emergency measures. From 200 cases per day in April, the East African country is now recording over 1,000 cases per day amid a looming vaccine shortage.
At the Ministry of Health, hundreds of people line up standing, others sitting, as the line snakes its way to the vaccination tent.
Uganda’s COVID-19 cases stand at 44,594, with 361 deaths. Dr. Yonas Tegegn Woldemariam, the country’s representative at the World Health Organization, spells out the rate at which the coronavirus is spreading in Uganda.
“On the week starting from 25 April, Uganda reported 256 cases. The week starting 2nd May, that number went up to 411. The week of the 9th of May, the number went to 475. And the week of the 16 May, the number has already reached 1,060,” he said.
Kampala is among 10 districts that have recorded a high number of cases.
Odoi Paul, 39, is among the many who thronged to the Ministry of Health on Thursday to get their first jab.
“To make sure that I’m free from COVID-19. Like in India, people are dying, in USA. Like, that is why I say, let me also go and save my life before such a thing happens in our country,” said Paul.
Dr. Henry Mwebesa, the director of health services, notes that it has taken the country less than 10 days to get to a full-blown pandemic.
The most affected group is people between the ages of 20 and 39, and the number of severely and critically ill COVID-19 patients is higher than it was in the first wave.
Dr. Mwebesa says officials are making tough decisions to ensure that people in densely populated areas such as Kampala get the vaccine.
“To also note with concern that some districts, especially in the Eastern and Northern regions, have not performed as well. So, the strategic committee meeting of the Ministry of Health resolved that vaccines be withdrawn from the poorly performing districts, and that the exercise should commence 27th May, which is today,” he said.
In March, Uganda received 964,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine from the COVAX facility, with 100,000 doses coming from India. Since March 10, about 550,000 people have been vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine.
A second batch of vaccines was expected starting this month. But Dr. Woldemariam says that is not guaranteed.
“The supply we were expecting in May hasn’t come, and it’s unlikely to come in June. So, we are working towards seeing where we can get an alternative supplier other than India. Globally, now there is a big effort for big countries which have excess to vaccines to donate, so, we are looking into whether we will benefit from that,” he said.
To show the full extent of the second wave, tonight the three major local television stations in Uganda will anchor a joint news bulletin under the theme, Act or Perish.