some public health experts heralded as shining examples for its handling of
coronavirus has had a "dramatic" increase in deaths and cases. What some have described as “rapid increase” in Covid-19 infection rates has
prompted appeals to people to adhere to public health guidelines.
There is concern about the effectiveness of the Infection Prevention
Control (IPC) as well as Public
health and social measures (PHSMs) introduced in mid-March 2020 to curb the
Uganda had by the time of filing this report registered 317 deaths due to
There were 38,534
confirmed cases, while over 13,400 persons had
According to the January 20th
epidemiology statistics from Africa Centre for Disease Control (CDC), Uganda is
among the 38 countries in Africa reporting 40 Covid-19 cases per one million
populations per day.
Uganda’s case fatality ratio is currently estimates at 2%.
The increase in cases and deaths continue to
occur despite studies indicating that most Ugandans are aware, knowledgeable
and understand how the virus is transmitted and spread.
A study on citizens’ knowledge, attitudes and
practices related to Covid-19 found that 8 out of ten Ugandan’s or 80% know how
the virus can be transmitted.
It found that the awareness was high across most
of Uganda though little lower in rural areas.
Sauti Za Wanainchi survey findings were not different from the one conducted by
Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) between July and August 2020.
from awareness about the COVID-19 awareness levels, the UBOS Uganda
High-Frequency Phone Survey on COVID-19 (UHFPS) found that a big share of
respondents thought that existing lockdowns measures were effective in curbing
the spread of COVID-19.
increase in cases and deaths amidst high knowledge about infection transmission
and prevention measures is puzzling health ministry officials and scientists.
experts suggest that the pandemic fatigue’
is setting in among some Ugandans tired of social distancing and wearing masks.
The Presidential Advisor
on Epidemics, Dr. Monica Musenero said in an interview that complacency
is one of the biggest concerns hampering the COVID-19control of transmission
“In fact for some people it is
becoming normal for one to die of COVID-19. They attend burials without
observing social distancing, they don’t put on masks and so the risk transmission
is high” said Musenero
Wilson Winstons Muhwezi,
an Associate Professor of Behavioural Sciences at, Makerere University’s
College of Health Sciences said it is important that message against
complacency continues to be spread.
“I recall reading
recently in a newspaper that was tracing how HIV and how one of the most
prominent Ugandans Philly Bogoley Lutaya announced that he had HIV people had doubts.
They thought he was acting out; he had been given money. So it’s very important
fellow Ugandans that we take our own safety very seriously and adhere to the
guidelines” he said
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Mukwanason A. Hyuha, an economist with Centre
for Critical Thinking and Alternative Analysis in December wrote a paper
warning about the fact that many Ugandans were not wearing masks and adhering
to the public health and social measures (PHSMs) for slowing transmission of
“I often attend
funeral, wedding, du’a and other ceremonies while wearing my mask, observing
social distancing, avoiding shaking hands and touching my mouth, eyes and
nose), and so on. However, I have always observed that only a small minority of
the attendants of such events do observe the SOPs—a percentage in the region of
5-10% or less” wrote Hyuha
to Hyuha, to many of his village mates back in Butaleja the fear about dying of
COVID-19 is not very scary as it were at the time COVID-19 was declared a global
a few people even have had the guts to tell me to my face that “If you do not die
of COVID-19, you will still eventually die of old age or something else—So, why
so strict with SOPs?” he said
and behavioral expert, Wilson Winstons Muhwezi, there shouldn’t be room for complacency about
COVID-19 prevention measures.
“It will take extreme behavior change by accepting the inconveniences
that prevention guidelines throw on us to be able to survive this challenge” advised
///Cue in “It will take……
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In April last year, scientists from several universities in Uganda
including Makerere University published an article in the Frontiers in Public
Health Journal warning about the misconceptions on COVID-19 risk among Ugandan men.
The study found that
men in Uganda perceived themselves to be at greater risk than women they also associated
COVID-19 with “the white” race.
Hyuha said most of those misconceptions still persist especially in rural areas and
therefore need to be demystified through communication messages.
Biological Science Versus Social Science Debate In COVID-19 Response
Almost a year since the Health Ministry and the National COVID-19 task force instituted the the prevention guidelines providing for social distancing, wearing face masks and generally limiting public gatherings, social scientists say those have not helped to stem the infections.
They say the government seemed to have underestimated the role of social scientists in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Professor Hyuha says social scientists
would play to sensitize and persuade communities to strictly observe the SOPs
and related issues.
“Most likely, it was assumed (wrongly in my opinion)
that the scientists would do everything necessary, including working on
sensitisation and society’s mindset change” said Hyuha
This week, the College of Humanities and Social
Sciences at Makerere released a study about Strengthening Public Health
Responses to COVID-19. Among the findings was the fact that the procedures
adopted to prevent COVID-19 infections were more based on biological sciences but
largely lacked aspects of social sciences.
Professor Kikooma Julius, Deputy Dean
at College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Makerere University said the challenge
with response to the pandemic has been coming from the way human beings conduct
themselves. He says aspects like individuals’ social issues, their politics and
others were not thought about when COVID19 regulations were designed.
pandemic is not just a snapshot in our lives. What we are learning is that we
are in this thing for quite a while. And if we are in this thing for a quite a
while, we cannot rely on measures that were thought in a snapshot
way. That is why you see that that even when they came up with lock down
measures, they were thinking in terms of three weeks, and then they kept on
increasing and that is a challenge” said Kikooma
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What Options as
Some experts interviewed for this story say there
may be need for stricter measures to enforce the COVID-19 measure while others
say that people are simply tired of the masks and social distancing measures.
Prof. Dennis Byarugaba, who heads the
National Flu Surveillance Group recently told journalists in Kampala said that
enforcement of COVID-19 prevention measures could be an option since many
people are not abiding.
“We are a little bit used to being pushed to do
things we are supposed to do. We probably might move into the next stage where
probably the government should come up and ensure that the enforcement of
government comes in very strongly to ensure that our public is safe.” Suggested
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Dr. Monica Musenero, a field epidemiologist
with experience in combating virus like Marburg and Ebola in Uganda and West Africa
said now that Ugandans are not adhering, the only hope is that Uganda gets hold
of vaccines against the virus.
She explained that unlike Ebola which does
not spread when a person is seriously sick, the control COVID-19 becomes
complicated because those infected with coronavirus spread it even when they
have not shown any signs and symptoms.