The coronavirus pandemic continues to make lives miserable for people around the world. In Uganda, a new lockdown has again impacted livelihoods. How soon before a full recovery is underway?
In this podcast, Patrick returns to Walter Wwesisgye, a health reporter with NTV Uganda, a leading TV broadcast channel, for an update on how the East African nation is coping with coronavirus.
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Music composed by Dale Enstrom.
Hello, and welcome to east Africa. NGO. I am your host Patrick Hill. This podcast is sponsored by team and faith, supporting women, orphans, and vulnerable children in Uganda and elsewhere in east Africa. Since 2012, the Corona virus pandemic is in its second year. Progress has been made to lower infections and deaths around the world. Vaccines have helped millions avoid catastrophic illness and hospital stays, but new variants are making lives miserable for people around the world. And in Africa, vaccines are not easy to find. Last year on this podcast, I spoke with a reporter for one of Uganda's leading news stations. We got to hear about the challenges facing Ugandans in those early days, the government used strict lockdowns in March, 2020 to keep infections and deaths under control the lives. And livelihoods have been slow to recover. Many are at home today, unable to work because of a new lockdown education, transportation and commerce have come to a halt. The tourism industry is still a long ways from recovery on July 20. I spoke with Walter and waisted , Jay and Uganda via Skype to learn how the east African nation is coping with COVID today. Joining me now is Walter and waster J a health reporter with MTV Uganda income , Paula Walter. Nice to speak with you. People hear from YouTube Patrick question of the day that we have here from the U S is what is the COVID situation right now?Speaker 2:
Well, statistically, I would say as of yesterday, we had in the 254 new cases, and I'll just give you a general outlook. The deaths have now increased to 2,412, and we have a total cumulative cases confirmed of COVID-19 amounting to 90,910 69,377 have recovered so far. We've managed to conduct 1 million four hundred and thirty one sixty eight tests that is both or all of them combined together, PCR, antigen antibody from different distinct areas. And when we talk vaccines, we have so far administered 1 million, 101,131 doses of the vaccines majorly. AstraZenica that's the one that we have been using. And that's the general outlook sofa. So infectionsSpeaker 1:
Are on the rise once again, because I think when we last spoke, we were, we were tracking it and then it seems to have been an improvement and things were looking up there like they were around the world, but now the infection rates are climbing once again.Speaker 2:
No , that's true. If you look at our figures from January this year, we almost had zero patients in all the facilities. The major national referral hospital had zero patients and it had presumed , you know, other healthcare services that had been closed since the outbreak of COVID-19 that we got a resurgence in the month of April and it's packed up, you know, in ways that we're not expecting because just three weeks ago or about four, we saw the numbers, you know , skyrocket cases confirmed in a day, went up up to 2000 in just a single day. We had deaths, you know, that were amounting. What totalling to , you know, 50 plus in a day that had not happened in the first outbreak of COVID-19 here. And, you know, hospitals were full. We had very many patients who really needed critical care and it was quite tough until, you know, they had the government decided to Institute a lockdown. WhatSpeaker 1:
Lockdown measures are being taken at this time? Can you describe the extent of them?Speaker 2:
So the lockdown measures are that there is no public transportation, not even private transportation is allowed. We are left with about, about 10 days to end this other lockdown that was instituted three weeks ago for 42 days, interdistrict movements were stopped. You know, some businesses were closed. The ones that really gather many people. We have a areas downtown in the city that really gather many people. All those were closed shopping. The kids were closed majorly majorly. The central business district was affected because all the kids, all the shopping malls, all the businesses in the central business district were closed, even when it was not generally put as a directive from the president, have those businesses closed. But by the fact that they got the many people, the owners of the buildings of the kids and, you know, those businesses were compelled. And anyway, there were no people traveling from home to town, just a few who would manage walk, but generally there was no business. So no transactions, howSpeaker 1:
Common these days is, are the use of masks? Are people still doing the needful or are they are most people masking and social distancing and washing their hands?Speaker 2:
Yeah . As regards the, what they call the social standard operating procedures here, which includes all the measures. You talked about putting on a mask, social distancing and washing hands or sanitizing. So we'll measure the, you know, make a very good evaluation after the lockdown has been lifted. But what I can tell you is that I have noticed people are now putting on masks while they're outside in public space. This is something that was almost abandoned. I would say, especially in January, you know , January to stay and maybe mid March , when the cases had completely gone down, people had almost gone back to their normal life. No masks, no social distancing. All the facilities for washing hands were just left, empty and dried up . You could tell from just a mere look at the Tufts . Yeah. So what happened in the last three weeks, I would say really opened up the eyes of the public, that we still have a big situation at hand. And is thisSpeaker 1:
Primarily due to, what's called the variance , these new strains of a coronavirus that are being passed around through east Africa and elsewhere around the world.Speaker 2:
We have had the issue of , uh , strains explained here in the country, by the scientists telling us that, you know , they have managed to detect the various trends. I think by now we have the last I spoke to the director of the Uganda virus research Institute. We had about, about six strains, including the Delta, the news train . And they had seen me in about, about two people . So that almost kept with the scientists. It's not majorly put out to the public, unless we, the generalists, you know , ask for it and put it out in our stories, but they majorly majorly keep it to themselves by the time, you know, you're going to make an inquiry if I speak to the dead , but tomorrow he may tell me that we have, you know, a couple of other new strains that they have managed to detect. Not so sure why they do this, but, you know , I have seen in other countries, it's a matter of importance, understand this , how widespreadSpeaker 1:
Have the vaccines been the administer to the population.Speaker 2:
So also to break it down a bit for you on the 1 million plus vaccines that that's been given out, many of them are single shots that people who have taken the double dose are slightly over 200,000. So that leaves a very big gap. And even when we got recently a batch of about, it was about 380,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine for majorly , the people who are taking the first dose, they're still noticing that these people did not turn up. So they just decided to still continue vaccinating, whoever comes in for the vaccine. So that target majorly first , all for the vulnerable group is about 4 million. You'd say 4.5 from the statistics of the minister of health. But then if you look at the population that has been vaccinated of that target is quite more , about a hundred thousand out of the 1 million plus, you know , the doses that have been vaccinated. And if you put it to percentages quite small, less than 1%. So in terms of vaccination, we still have a big challenge at hand. We still have a big challenge. The ministry has assured and put some timelines on when we are going to get other vaccines. For example, we expect that made payments for about 9 million doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccines. And according to the minister of health, the process has began. They have, you know , advanced some money and we can only wait, but also we have donations majorly, actually all the, all the 1 million plus doses that we have so far vaccinated have been donations. Uganda has not been able to purchase vaccines using its own money, even when it has the cash at hand, though, we will be expecting another about 1.5 million doses donated from China, from the us and from France. And recently Belgium also added us another 285,000 doses.Speaker 1:
Wow. That does sound like a big challenge. Do you know that? Is this the same type of situation, the difficulty acquiring vaccines that other east African nations , uh , Uganda's neighbors are facing? Is this a widespread problem?Speaker 2:
Yes. It's a , it's a general problem. You know , that cuts across Africa, not just this stuff, Africa or Uganda, because about 10 million doses of the Johnson and Johnson, but still to date, they have not received a single batch. So that's the same with Rhonda. The same with Tanzania, we have only been working with donations, made jelly in Africa.Speaker 1:
Well, in the absence of the vaccines, many Ugandans are turning to local remedies like COVID X . And the question I have for you is , is, is COVID ex considered even a serious alternative to a, an established vaccine.Speaker 2:
Absolutely not. I don't think it can compare to a vaccine because it was just notified by the national drug authority here. And notification only simply means that it has been given the mission for a third phase testing . Now, unfortunately, things bleed around differently here in Uganda and what was supposed to be if that phase testing opened up to the market for people to buy COVID X and use it after the maker, professor claimed to have some people who testified. Also, we had a number of social media testimonies of how COVID ex helped people. And COVID X just to be briefed in how probably it looks like just a 20 meals. So it's a very, very small dose. And according to the professors , you administer six drops to the throat, you'd say as if you're gargling water. So that's how it should work according to the professor. But those is that the six droplets you put around your throat, and then you could also put some drops in your nose depending on how you feel that is. If you're not breathing very well. I have no proof on how COVID X works. I have not used it before. I have not even interacted with someone physically who has used it and has shared, or has experienced the effect of COVID X . So it's just a natural remedy that was allowed to be used for supportive treatment. Probably what I can also just add on is that why that professor was even leeway for his covenants is that he has been instrumental in developing some other local remedies that have been approved, for example, at a [inaudible] , which is a local remedy for malaria. And that was approved by the NDA . It got all the full approvals. So it's being sold officially in pharmacies and according to his thing . And when he spoke to the president and he shared his history, so the president most likely gave him possibility to continue with his product because the national drug authority had a prohibited team. And then a day later we see the national drug authority coming out to address the , the media that COVID X can now be, you know , sold in pharmacies and can be used to support treatment for COVID-19Speaker 1:
When it comes to COVID. And the various , these days, Walter, who is getting infectedSpeaker 2:
The first time we had the outbreak, the ministry had categorized the group at risk as the elderly and those with co-morbidities . But as we got different strains in the country, and now, especially that the Delta is also with us here in Uganda, the ministry has since revised. And as of , uh , last week, they, you know, ACO guidelines on , and this of course determines who is going to be vaccinated. And this is why they had also to make the target group for vaccination, because initially the group was the elderly and they had said those 55 and above and anybody with co-morbidities. But now the minister of health says that young people, you know, above 18, we are now being taken down by COVID-19 infection from the new strains, especially the Delta. And they had seen this from the hospital admissions that they were treating at the national referral and many other public facilities. So the group is now much bigger. Your literacy, everybody now has to be vaccinated because anyway, Uganda is a country with the youngest population in the world. Most of us just below the age of 30 , what's the impactSpeaker 1:
On hospitals throughout the country? Are they full? Are they, are they struggling to meet the demand of ill patients?Speaker 2:
So right now the cases have really gone down and the hospitals have now some breathing space. So if you fall ill, you'll probably have a bed or too . And you know, some health workers to take care of you. First of all, in the public facilities also, you know , in the private facilities, about three weeks ago, it was a different situation. There was no hospital space anywhere for either, you know, critical care ICU or high dependency, even just general admission. There was no space. Three weeks ago, there was a shortage of oxygen in the country. So you would probably get oxygen and then you don't have bed space or you'd get a bed and you don't have oxygen. And there's a time where the national referral hospital had a problem with its oxygen plant. And quite a number of people died. The number was put two up to 49. And this information that corroborated with a specialist from the hospital when I was speaking to him on Sunday this week, and we confined in me that three weeks ago, when we actually reported that the white deaths , as a result of the failure of the oxygen plant, the web much more numbers that were not given out by the national referral hospital in terms of people who have died of COVID-19 just trying to cover up .Speaker 1:
It just remains a terrible scourge. This pandemic throughout the world, including Uganda and east Africa, even here in the United States, we have sections of the population who were refusing to take the available vaccines, which is quite a contrast when compared to other parts of the world who are struggling to even obtain them in the first place, Walter and Wester Jay health reporter from MTV, Uganda, and Kampala. Thank you very much for joining me today. It was good to talk with you. Welcome. ThankSpeaker 3:
You for listening today. This program is sponsored by team and faith lifting lives and raising hopes and Uganda and elsewhere in east Africa. Since 2012, if you are able and interested, make a donation to support our projects involving women, orphans, and vulnerable children, visit our firstname.lastname@example.org. I'll be back again soon to introduce you to another organization that is helping our brothers and sisters in east Africa for east Africa, NGO I'm Patrick Hill. Yeah .