Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni has acknowledged the progress achieved in the fight against the Ebola Virus Disease but extended the lockdown in Mubende and Kassanda districts by 21 days.
The lockdown restricts movements in and out, as a measure to prevent the spread of the disease. Museveni said that the government has been able to stop further spread in the districts of Masaka, Kyegegwa, Bunyangabu and Kagadi and that the health Ministry swiftly handled Jinja where more than 300 contact persons were listed and put under institutional quarantine.
According to the president, it is now 14 days since the last case in Jinja district and no other have been registered from those areas but those in quarantine must complete the 21 days for the health workers to be sure that they are free of Ebola.
Ministry of Health records show a total of 6 confirmed cases are still admitted and receiving treatment in the country. Five people readmitted at Mubende Ebola unit and 1 patient is undergoing treatment from Entebbe Ebola Treatment Unit.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has added five new countries to the list of those that are at the highest risk of importing Ebola Sudan that has been spreading in Uganda since September this year.
The countries are the Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, and Djibouti. The global health body, says that they reached this decision after conducting a risk assessment study where they found a lot of cross-border movement into Uganda, which has so far registered confirmed 141 cases with fifty-five deaths resulting from the viral hemorrhagic fever.
These countries join six others including Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, and Tanzania WHO had given a list of readiness actions to do for prevention but also for managing positive cases in case they are imported.
A WHO statement released on Friday shows that Burundi, for instance, has trained community health workers to conduct surveillance whereas the neighboring DRC has been testing suspected Ebola Sudan cases that have all tested negative.
Rwanda, the organization reports has gone further ahead of others to start setting up Ebola Treatment Units even as no case has tested positive so far.
However, while this is happening, Uganda’s Health Minister Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng has said the country is on the way to defeating the virus since the epicenter districts of Kassanda and Mubende have since stopped recording new cases.
But Museveni said that it is too early to celebrate any successes although all looks good.
He directed that all the restrictions shall be extended for another 21 days citing the need to further sustain the gains in control of Ebola that have been made, and to protect the rest of the country from exposure.
The measures include a curfew in Mubende and Kassanda districts starting from 7:00pm to 6:00am, plus public transport, private transport and Boda-bodas not being permitted to move.
Other restrictions are the suspension of seasonal markets, closure of worship places, social places like bars and gyms while all burials must be conducted by the safe burial teams.
Museveni announced the measures in a statement read for him by Vice President Jessica Alupo on Ebola Virus Disease Outbreak.
He reasoned that the country has been responding to the Ebola outbreak for nearly 2 months and one week and has registered success with 3 districts of Kagadi, Bunyangabu, and Kyegeggwa retired from the follow up list having completed more than 42 days since the last case of Ebola was reported, coupled with no further spread while Mubende, Kassanda, Kampala, Wakiso, Jinja and Masaka which are still under follow up.
Museveni also said that there are districts with imported cases, with secondary transmissions such as Wakiso, Masaka, Jinja and Kampala and these continue to register progress in control of the outbreak as observed by the number of days since the last confirmed case was registered.
He observed that Mubende and Kassanda districts have also made good progress and a very commendable job in controlling the disease and the spread except for the one case registered in Mubende on November 13 after the district had gone for 15 days without reporting a case.
The president said that it is currently 13 days since this latest case was reported in Mubende hence more work still needs to be done for the district to be completely free of Ebola.
In Kassanda, Museveni said there is an improved progress in the response and that it is 15 days since the district reported a confirmed case of Ebola.
He said that they are aware of the challenges of a weak health system, myths, misinformation, and belief in witchcraft coupled with a single incident of exhumation of a dead body that resulted into a flare up of cases.
On October 15, Museveni ordered a number of movement restrictions into and out of Kassanda and Mubende districts which were aimed at blocking the spread of Ebola virus disease to densely populated areas in Kampala and Wakiso. The first 21 days elapsed on November 4 and the restrictions were on November 5 extended until November 26.
While commending the people of Mubende and Kassanda for abiding by the measures, Museveni explained that the lockdown measures have worked and that the government has been able to avert the importation of the virus into Kampala.
He also acknowledged the pain and the inconvenience caused by the restrictions but insisted that had they allowed the escalation of the outbreak into Kampala, the consequences would have been bad, including possible exportation to other countries.
Meanwhile , At least 2,500 learners from schools within Ebola hit Mubende and Kassanda districts have been transported to their respective homes under the government arrangement to curb the spread of the epidemic.
The government through the ministries of health and that education announced the arrangement to transport learners to and from Mubende and Kassanda districts for holidays when the term closes. Other learners were transported from their respective boarding schools to their homes in the 2 districts under the same government programme.
In Mubende most of the learners were transported by their respective schools’ heads to the gathering center at Kasenyi Secondary School playground from where they were picked. Before boarding the buses to their homes, the learners underwent the registration process and temperature checks.
Mubende District Secretary for education, Vincent Gahanga Tumusiime commended the government for the initiative and also cautioned the learners to desist from unnecessary movements but instead engage in productive work to avoid contracting diseases like Ebola.
Tumusiime who represented the district chairperson at the flagging off of the buses also asked the learners to practice what they study to enhance their understanding and also to benefit their parents.
District Education Officer – DEO Asaph Kabunga said that more than 1,600 of Primary 1 to 6 and secondary school learners of Senior 1, 2, 3 and senior 5 were transported to far-away villages within and other districts out of Mubende District.
He said that the learners were undertaken through medical check by the surveillance team before being taken to their homes. According to Kabunga, the government in partnership with Unicef provided 28 Mini-buses and 12 buses to transport the learners both within and outside Mubende.
In Kassanda District, RDC Phoebe Namulindwa said that the biggest number of learners are those studying from schools outside Kassanda district while others came from far-away villages to boarding schools.