KAMPALA — Ugandans have been urged not to return to old behavioural patterns if the country is to maintain its scores in the fight against the spread of COVID-19.
Ministry of Health Permanent Secretary Dr Diana Atwine, while appearing on a panel discussing the science of COVID-19 alongside other experts stated that Ugandans should not forget the dangers of the disease especially now that the country is easing lockdown measures.
She urged that social distancing must remain a priority.
President Yoweri Museveni last week announced that government would, starting on Tuesday May 26, begin allowing Ugandans to move after more than 2 months since government announced measures that would curtail movement in a bid to stem the spread of the novel virus in the country.
“There is no need for us to rush to normalcy. We must adjust and continue adhering to the COVID-19 guidelines. The social distancing culture must remain,” Dr Atwine said during a webinar panel discussion of the science of COVID-19.
The webinar, the first of a series supported by the Konrad-Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) foundation and organised by the Ministry of ICT and National Guidance in partnership with the Ministry of Health, target to curb misinformation around the disease.
Health experts have been assembled from across the board to interact with Ugandans answering different questions about COVID-19, how to cope with anxiety and the science of the disease.
ICT and National Guidance Ministry Permanent Secretary Vincent Bagiire says over the months of May and June, the three partners will demystify the myths around COVID-19.
“The aim of the partnership is to allow citizens to interact with experts and get a better context of the pandemic and government’s efforts to protect them against COVID-19,” Mr Bagiire said. He explained that government targets to allow citizens access science-based information while enabling them to engage with experts.
Appearing on the same panel alongside Prof Pontiano Kalebu, the Excecutive Director Uganda Virus Research Institute, Prof Pauline Byakika of Makerere University School of Public Health re-echoed Dr Atwine’s call saying Ugandans need to maintain behavioural change in order to sustain the low numbers of infections in the country.
As of May 23, Uganda had registered a total of 198 COVID-19 cases, with more than 60 cases treated and discharged.
Prof Byakika said habits such as hugging and shaking hands were old order, which Ugandans should avoid as the lockdown is lifted.
Dr Atwine cautioned that the lifting of the lockdown would usher the country into phase two of fight against the pandemic that has left many countries devastated.
She said that as experts, they foresee as spike in the number of infections when restriction on movements and interactions is lifted.
She, however, noted that the government has prepared itself for tracing and treating active cases. She added that working with UVRI, the government has increased its capacity to test and was now working on equipping hospitals to handle cases of the disease.
“We are also preparing our regional referral hospitals for the upsurge in COVID cases. It is high time that we took the dangers of COVID seriously. The public must remain vigilant and remove laxity because this increases the likelihood for infection among people,” Dr Atwine said.
“The lockdown measures have been effective. We need to work with all sectors and engage them on standard operating procedures as we ease the lockdown. It is very important that they are part of this conversation,” Prof Kaleebu told Ugandans.