UGANDA – Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni has re-imposed a strict lockdown that includes closure of schools and suspension of inter-district travel to help tone down a surge in COVID-19 cases in the East African country.
The new measures include the closure of all educational institutions, partial bans on travel, shutdown of weekly open markets, and suspension of church services.
These restrictions will be imposed for 42 days, after which government will asses their impact and determine whether to extend or halt them.
At the beginning of the pandemic, Uganda implemented one of the tightest lockdowns in Africa, which was gradually lifted as cases slowed to a trickle.
Last month, however, infections started to spike and new cases, particularly among younger people, have surged, fueling fears that the country could slip into an out-of-control second wave.
President Museveni said in a televised address on Sunday night that a second wave gripping the country was “diffuse and sustained”.
The government, he said, was worried the jump in cases would exhaust the available bed space and oxygen supply in hospitals unless urgent public health measures are constituted.
“In this wave the intensity of severe and critically ill COVID-19 patients and death is higher than what we experienced in the first wave of the pandemic,” said the stout president.
COVID-19 infections in Uganda are on an average daily basis at their peak, with 825 new infections reported each day, according to a recent analysis.
From January to April the positivity rate in tested samples was mostly below 3% but the rate started climbing sharply last month, hitting 18% on June 2, according to Ministry of Health data.
The east African country has thus far reported nearly 53,000 positive cases and 383 deaths. Since the beginning of the month, Uganda has reported more than 5,000 new cases, the majority of them in Kampala, and more than 20 deaths from the deadly disease.
The new restrictions potentially threaten to arrest an already fragile economic recovery from the blow inflicted by last year’s lockdown where the economy contracted by 1.1%.
Uganda’s Ministry of health has also denied speculations that all hospitals in the capital Kampala have run out of COVID-19 vaccines as the country grapples with a second wave of infections and deaths.
The ministry was responding to allegations by an online user that the capital’s hospitals had all exhausted their vaccine supply and the government had ordered a further 175,000 doses in addition to recalling unused vaccines from low demand districts in rural areas.
According to the ministry, close to 750,000 people have so far been vaccinated in the East African country since July.