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COVID-19: Worry as Uganda Registers Drastic Decline in Safe Practices

Ugandans are slowly abandoning safe practices outlined by the Health Ministry to prevent the spread of Coronavirus, a situation that could lead to more casualties.

New findings show a drastic decline in the reported prevalence of safe practices compared to round 1 in June.

Significantly fewer respondents reported that they reduced the number of times they went to the market; avoided groups of more than 10 people and physical greetings; and washed hands more frequently in the last 7 days prior to the interview in July-August.

The change was observed across rural and urban areas and across both male and female respondents.

“The practices of wearing a mask in public and hand washing after being in public are far from being universal and are highly correlated with the respondent’s education,” the survey report released by Uganda Bureau of Statistics reads in part.

Respondents were asked about the frequency of wearing masks and hand washing after being in public in the last 7 days prior to the interview in July-August.

“About 80 percent of respondents washed hands all or most of the times after being in public, while 66 percent wore masks all or most of the time while in public,” reads the report seen by ChimpReports.

“The prevalence of these practices was constantly higher among respondents in urban areas and those with higher levels of education.”

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Coronavirus has so far killed 114 people in Uganda.

Hundreds of businesses have been closed and thousands laid off from jobs since the pandemic broke out in March, 2020.

In June 2020, the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS), with the support from the World Bank, officially launched the HFPS to track the impacts of the pandemic on a monthly basis for a period of 12 months.

The survey aimed to recontact the entire sample of households that had been interviewed during the Uganda National Panel Survey (UNPS) 2019/20 round and that had phone numbers for at least one household member or a reference individual.

The first round (baseline) of the survey was conducted from June 3rd to June 20th and the second round was conducted between July 31 and August 21, 2020.

Of the 2,421 households targeted, 2,227 households were interviewed in round 1, and of those, 2,199 were interviewed in round 2, representing a 99 percent response rate between rounds.

Awareness

UBOS findings show that awareness of easing of lockdown measures announced on June 22 was very high, but at least half of respondents felt that this move could escalate the spread of COVID-19.

Respondents were asked if they were aware of the revised COVID-19 guidelines that were announced on June 22 leading to easing the lockdown measures.

On average, 94 percent of respondents were aware about the policy change. The level of awareness was lower among the poorest quintile compared to the richest quintile and among rural residents compared to urban ones.

Respondents were also asked if easing measures would escalate the spread of COVID-19.

“The largest concern was associated with allowing public and private vehicles to operate – about 67 percent of respondents felt this would escalate the spread of COVID-19. The lowest level of concern was related to allowing the food sellers to go home after 21 days of being in lockdown– 49 percent of respondents felt this would escalate the spread of the disease,” the report reads in part.

There was no significant difference in answers between rural and urban respondents.

Existing lockdown restrictions were almost universally perceived as effective measures to curb the spread of disease.

Very high shares of respondents in July-August thought that existing lockdowns measures were effective in curbing the spread of COVID-19.

At least 85 percent of respondents believed that any of the listed measures would curb the spread of disease.

Despite very high numbers, there was a significant difference in perceptions between respondents living in the poorest 20 percent of household population versus those living in the richest 20 percent of households, as measured by the pre-COVID-19 household annual consumption per adult equivalent quintiles.

Respondents living in households from the poorest quintile were more likely to think that lockdown measures would curb the spread of COVID-19 in comparison to their counterparts living in households from the richest quintile.

For example, 93 percent of respondents from the poorest quintile believed that suspension of communal prayers or closure of churches would curb the spread of COVID-19 compared to 82 percent of respondents among the richest quintile.

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