On Friday, the Minister of Health, Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng officially announced that Uganda is currently in the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Increased transmission rates have been observed across the country, and Kampala is leading among the various districts.
“We have, therefore, moved from the period of sustained containment where the positivity rate was below 5 %. The country is now in its third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. The positivity rates have consistently increased since December 11th 2021 from a weekly average positivity rate of 0.9%, to 3.9% in the second week of December 2021, to 11.4% in the third week of December 2021, and to 23.3% in the fourth week of December 2021 moving into January 2022,” Dr. Aceng said.
What does this mean? We need to be more vigilant than ever before. The fact that most African countries were already in the 3rd wave of the pandemic by July last year, a time when Uganda was just in her 2nd wave shows that we have been doing good in terms of the COVID-19 response. However, we have been hit by the inevitable!
Because the COVID-19 virus keeps evolving, each variant is likely to behave differently. The good news is that the Omicron variant has been found to be less severe because it doesn’t infiltrate the lungs, compared to other variants. However, more studies are ongoing to understand it better.
The country is currently undergoing a phased reopening of the economy. This has started with schools reopening and lifting of bans on the transport sector, which had been operating at 50%; cinema halls and sports events and yes, more is expected to come.
But, if we continue living our normal lives aimlessly, we might go back to the ‘dark times’ that we were in when COVID-19 had emerged.
President Museveni, in his New Year Address clearly stated, “Some of these measures will be reversed, if COVID-19 high dependence and intensive care units bed occupancy exceeds 50% and if the daily rate of hospitalization for severely and critically ill patients is sustained at 30 per day for 5 days in two or more Covid-19 Treatment Units. The Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds in Government hospitals are 187 and HDU (High Dependency Unit) beds are 475. The total coronavirus beds are 3,100.”
More evidence is showing that vaccines can save lives. Important still, booster shots have been recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO), and even our Ministry of Health, for those who have already been fully vaccinated, after a six (6) months period.
However, the numbers that have been vaccinated are still low, yet the transmission rates are increasing. People are becoming used to the pandemic and have withdrawn from adhering to the COVID-19 prevention measures such as maintaining proper hand hygiene as well as social distancing.
Dr. Yonas Tegegn, the WHO country representative in Uganda said that there has been a 22% increase in the number of deaths due to COVID-19 in the African continent and this has been to the low vaccination coverage.
If we forget the dark times of the 2nd wave, we might be headed for the worst.
Now that we have an assurance from President Museveni that more vaccines will be coming in; the ‘7,319,610 million double doze vaccines, able to vaccinate 3,659,805 million people and another 3,691,200 Johnson and Johnson able to vaccinate a similar number,’ let’s get vaccinated.
By Annet Nakibirango Kasujja
The Writer is the Public Relations Officer at Info-Communication for Health Uganda.