Chinese nationals intending to travel to Uganda have been advised to delay their travel in the interim while those that arrive in the country from China will be isolated, as part of the measures to prevent an outbreak of the Coronavirus which has so far killed over 100 people in China.
Uganda’s Ministry of Health says it has intensified surveillance of suspected cases of Coronavirus at Uganda’s entry points especially Entebbe International airport amid a heightened threat of the virus threat.
On Tuesday, Parliament demanded that the Minister of Health issues a statement notifying the country on its interventions so far, to minimize the risk of an outbreak of Coronavirus in Uganda. The demand by MPs was on the basis of the trade and relatively high traffic between Uganda and China which could potentially increase the risk.
The Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) broke out in China’s city of Wuhan recently and so far, 4,593 cases have been confirmed with 106 deaths registered in China. Some 56 cases have been confirmed in 14 countries including Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Canada, USA, France and Germany
There is no confirmed case in Uganda as yet.
In a statement issued Wednesday, Dr Charles Olaro, the Acting Director General of Health Services in the Ministry of Health has said the Ministry working with partners is already undertaking measures to prevent the outbreak.
He said surveillance has been intensified at Uganda’s entry points, especially the main airport at Entebbe.
Teams at Entebbe are conducting screening for 2019- nCoV, he said, adding that the Ministry is finalizing an emergency plan for nCOV preparedness.
According to Dr Olara, the Ministry is also working jointly with the Civil Aviation Authority to undertake sensitization of all airport staff on the risk of spread of 2019-nCOV to Uganda, the signs and symptoms and how to prevent the disease. Part of the plan is to ensure there are heightened infection prevention practices at the airport including increased hand washing points.
Dr Olara says the Chinese Ambassador organized a meeting where leadership groups were formed to monitor Chinese in the country. As a result, the Chinese nationals (already in China) have been given notice to delay their return to Uganda until the situation is in control. Those in Uganda will not travel to China at the moment.
Those who come to Uganda will stay in isolation for at least 2 weeks.
A national task force has also been activated to coordinate preparedness and response activities. Government is also ensuring that information regarding the virus is disseminated to the public and health workers.
Meanwhile, Entebbe and Regional Referral Hospitals have been designated as centers for case management.
Health workers across Uganda have been guided on how to identify, isolate, investigate and care for the suspected persons early enough. They have also been briefed on how to notify the next reporting level in line with national disease notification guidelines.
Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).
A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans. This ne strain was temporarily named ‘-2019-nCoV’’
Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people.
The Ministry of Health is urging the public in Uganda to frequently wash their hands by using alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water and to cover their mouth (with flexed elbow or tissue) when coughing and sneezing. This tissue should be thrown away immediately in a bin and hands washed.
The public is also urged to cook meat and eggs thoroughly before consumption. The Ministry is also advising against crowded areas, handshaking, close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.
Toll Free Lines for reporting suspicious cases: 0800203033 and 0800100066