A 21-day lockdown was announced yesterday in Uganda as one of the measures to control the spread of the Ebola Virus Disease.
The lock down is in the areas of Mubende and Kassanda districts where high cases of Ebola have been identified.
According to directives issued last night by President Yoweri Museveni, movement in the two districts will be restricted over the next three weeks. This means that there will be no inbound and outbound movements to the two districts and a nighttime curfew suspending movement between 7 pm to 6 am is in effect.
As well only cargo vehicles delivering supplies are allowed and authorized government vehicles from the Ministry of Health, security vehicles. All these vehicles are also barred from carrying passengers.
In an effort to control the pandemic, President Museveni also admonished traditional healers across the country for interfering in the treatment of Ebola and ordered them to stop with immediate effect.
Museveni’s remarks stemmed from the Ministry of Health’s report on an Ebola Victim identified as Twagirayezu Ndahiro who was a known contact but escaped from his home in Mubende where he was being monitored and went to Luweero District to seek treatment from a traditional healer.
When it didn’t work, Ndahiro requested to be brought to Kiruddu hospital, where he was later taken to but it was too late for the doctors to save his life. After reaching Kiruddu, he changed his name to avoid being related to Ebola in Mubende. The ministry only got to learn that he was the escapee when he was taken back for burial in Mubende.
Museveni told the traditional healers that they are endangering their lives and the patient’s lives by accepting someone with a weird sickness. He directed that all traditional healers should suspend whatever they are doing across the country. The President cautioned religious leaders not to accept sick people with symptoms of Ebola who go to churches seeking healing prayers
The President further cautioned people to desist from using herbal medicine when an epidemic hits a country. “We are not saying don’t use your traditional herbs because they can work in some cases that are known to us, but if the government declares an epidemic, please listen to what the government is saying”, Museveni warned people.
“There have been a lot of rumors and anxiety about a confirmed case of Ebola in Kampala specifically Kirudde hospital, I would like to inform the general public that there is no confirmed case of Ebola in Kampala City, as I already indicated to you, the confirmed case was admitted at Kiruddu from Mubende died, 24 people have been listed as contacts and are already in quarantine”, he said.
What is happening on the ground;
The Resident District Commissioner (RDC) of Kassanda district, Phoebe Namulindwa said that they have already deployed police personnel on all transit routes to restrict the movement of people. She said that they have also asked for reinforcement from other districts to ensure that the restrictions are followed.
Namulindwa added that they are working with Local Council leaders and Village Health Teams – VHTs to be on the lookout for new people in their respective areas and report them. She added that the LCs are working with security personnel to restrict the movement of people.
Namulindwa adds that although mines were not restricted, the authorities will be working with the proprietors to strengthen the implementation of presidential directives within the areas.
The authorities in the two districts have now deployed security teams on all major roads connecting with other districts as well as inter-routes. In Mubende, security personnel have taken over the streets and erected roadblocks on all major outlets, and authorities there told URN in a telephone interview that an urgent meeting has been convened to strategize on how to effectively enforce the lockdown.
Namulindwa said that arrangements and consultations are underway on how to help sick and pregnant mothers easily access health facilities without any disruption. She adds that they have sent out a communication to the people whose ailments are managed from outside the district to register with their local council leaders to be provided with travel permits.
According to the Health Ministry, the Ebola outbreak has since been confirmed in the districts of Mubende, Kyegegwa, Kassanda, Kagadi and Bunyangabu with 58 total confirmed cases and 19 deaths. The ministry of health said that 20 people have recovered from Ebola.
Meanwhile in other areas, residents of Ajono Parish in Vurra Sub County are opposed to the proposal by Arua district Ebola Taskforce to designate Kawuanzeti Health Centre III as an isolation center for suspected cases.
On Thursday, residents stormed the health facility in protest after they got reports that the district Ebola Taskforce has approved Kawuanzeti Health Centre III to act as the Ebola isolation center.
According to the residents, they cannot allow the facility to be used as an isolation center when it has not been commissioned for use since it is still undergoing construction. They have also vowed to chase away the patients if the district health office insists to admit suspected Ebola cases at the facility.
Nicholas Abiria the LCI Chairperson for Ndrivu village says the communities are opposed to the proposal since they were not consulted and sensitized on the matter.
“The Ajono community members passed a resolution in a meeting on Tuesday that they don’t want the facility to be used as a resolution”, he said.
Thomas Onzima, the project chairperson for Kawuanzeti Health Centre III project notes that the facility was not built for the purpose of treating and managing Ebola cases but for common illnesses that have been affecting the local residents.
The LCIII Chairperson of Vurra Sub County Joel Pariyo told Uganda Radio Network-URN that his office has received a petition from the community about the matter. According to Pariyo, there is a need for the district health department to identify an alternative health center since the facility is not ready.
But, Paul Bishop Drileba, the Acting Arua District Health Officer says that they proposed the facility due to the fact that it is currently unoccupied and is secured. He however reiterated that Kawuanzeti Health Centre III only handles suspected cases but in case of positive cases, they intend to use Kuluva Hospital for better management.
This is the second-time residents in Arua have rejected the establishment of an isolation center. In 2020, residents in Mvara ward in Arua city rejected the plans by the then Arua district COVID-19 task force to establish a COVID-19 isolation ward at Arua Core Primary Teachers College.
The construction of Kawuanzeti Health Centre III estimated at over 1 billion shillings began in 2020. Although the works have been completed, the facility is yet to be commissioned.
Background to the outbreak;
The Ministry of Health last month confirmed the outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease –EVD in Uganda with the epicenter being Mubende district, particularly the Madudu sub-county. Subsequently, Ebola alerts have been heard in several other districts.
As of the 12th of October 22, there were fifty-four (54) Ebola cases and 19 registered deaths while up to 20 people have recovered from the deadly disease. Ebola victims present with symptoms such as fatigue, fever, headache diarrheal, fever, chest pain, vomiting, and unexplained bleeding in the open parts of the body, for example, nose, mouth, eyes, and ears among others
Security has rounded up 15 people in Kiruma Sub County in Mubende District and taken them to the Ebola isolation center to for screening and testing. The 15 are said to be members of the same family who had close contact with a deceased male family member but had resisted requests by the surveillance team to test.
Rosemary Byabashaija, the Mubende Resident District Commissioner, says that the 15 people were picked up by the Ebola Taskforce security committee on a tip-off. She said that the security team found the affected to have been in contact with the deceased and took them into isolation at Madudu Health Center.
According to Byabashaija, the group belonged to the family, which has since lost 7 people to suspected Ebola but resisted going for testing. Byabashaija, who also doubles as the chairperson of the Ebola Taskforce in Mubende District, attributed the death of 7 people in one family to their rigidity and resistance to treatment.
She revealed that the deceased man from Kiruma traversed different areas like Luwero, Nateete in Kampala and died at Kirudu Hospital without providing a proper identity. She said there are many such people who conceal information about their sicknesses.