KAMPALA, UGANDA – The high-risk COVID-19 ward at Uganda’s Mulago National Referral Hospital has been filled to capacity over the past month.
But the hospital says recoveries have kept pace with the rate of confirmed coronavirus infections.
Uganda has confirmed 79 coronavirus infections, 49 recoveries, and — so far — no deaths. But outside of Uganda’s hospitals, though, health care workers are facing stigma.
Dr. Baterana Byarugaba is the executive director at the Mulago National Referral Hospital.
“We said ‘OK, let’s see how this virus will kill people if we maintain them on their normal drugs.’ If they are hypertensive, we treat hypertension, we treat diabetes, we treat ulcers, we treat all forms of diseases,” Baterana said. “And, I think that was part of our success.”
Dr. Fred Nakwagala, senior consultant physician for Covid-19 case management in Uganda, said past lessons from Ebola and cholera outbreaks helped prepare them.
He admits COVID-19 poses new challenges — including for health care workers.
“You remain with that sense of fear, anxiety,” Nakwagala said. ”And also, for you, you may be strong but your family, where you stay, your community, where you live and travel. And there’s also the issue of stigma. If you go into a market now, and the people in the market know you, they kind of don’t want to serve you. They kind of feel they don’t want to associate with you.”
Ugandan Health Minister Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng said the only newly confirmed cases of coronavirus are coming in from other countries.
“Nearly 23 are truck drivers who came either from Kenya or from Tanzania,” Aceng said. “Within the country, we have not been getting positive cases. And as we draw close to the end of the lockdown, we need to have vital information that will form part of the decisions for lifting the lockdown.”
Uganda’s lockdown restrictions on movement and gatherings are set either to expire or be extended May 5.
To help make that decision, the Ugandan Health Ministry will conduct a nationwide rapid survey on community transmission, including 20,000 tests for COVID-19, to see if additional infections are being missed.