By Dr. Roy William Mayega
Since Uganda confirmed its first COVID-19 case on 21 March 2020, the number of positive cases increased to 126 as of May 12, 2020, according to the Ministry of Health.
Fifty-six people have recovered, with no deaths registered to date. A total of 62,938 samples were tested by the Uganda Virus Research Institute as of May 12, 2020.
Uganda's epi-curve viewed on a weekly (or hebdomadal) timescale. After a near disappearance of cases in mid-April, we are now seeing a rebound that has led to a second peak. The second peak is associated with the largest number of cases confirmed in one day (13 cases). This week will determine whether the second peak has reached its peak or not.
The second peak is almost entirely driven by long-distance truck drivers entering Uganda from 3 countries: Kenya, Tanzania and South Sudan. These countries are already experiencing substantial community spread. Curiously, Uganda has handled these men with a benevolent hand, allowing them to hit our roads before confirming their status, and trusting them to behave all through the journey to their destinations.
If a third peak is to occur, it will most likely be due to sustained community spread as a result of the seeds sown by these peripatetic men. Sustained community spread would lead to an exponential rise in cases.
The current situation, while stable, is quite tenacious, and calls for massive preparedness actions at the district level (inclusive of General Hospitals) to handle a potential surge in cases and contacts.
Districts should be ready for very localized battles to trace, find, recognize, screen, isolate, treat, quarantine, and enforce social distancing in the event that events are so many that available help from the centre and the regions is stretched so thin.
But we cannot hide perpetually in wait until things normalize in Kenya and Tanzania. We have to eventually open up the economy, even if at a controlled pace, for we risk a plethora of other 'epidemics' and an upshot in mortality from familiar predators: Birth complications, pneumonia, malaria, TB, HIV/AIDS, measles, diarrhoea, anaemia, acute malnutrition, heart attacks, and diabetes among others.
Tough decisions have to be made to save ourselves from a silent parallel pandemic of very well known but unforgivingly deadly killers in the process of playing hide-and-seek with COVID-19! In economics, they call it 'Opportunity Cost'. In 'Street-ology' we call it 'Caught between a rock and a hard place'!
Let’s see how week 8 goes!
Dr. Roy William Mayega, is the Deputy Chief-of-Party at Resilient Africa Network (RAN), a Project at the School of Public Health, Makerere University.