Dr. Diana Atwiine, the Permanent Secretary (PS) Ministry of Health has come out in defense of the ministry’s decision to forcefully quarantine all travellers entering the country, at their own expense.
The Ministry recently came under the spotlight for cramming travellers at a hotel in Entebbe.
The travellers, both nationals and foreigners are forced to pay $100 to be isolated at this facility.
Appearing before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), Members of Parliament questioned Dr Atwiine on this action, while others demanded that it is revised.
Isingiro South MP Alex Byarugaba noted that the $100 charge is excessive, and also wondered why the ministry chose this particular hotel and not something cheaper.
Byarugaba said government should be the one meeting these costs.
However, Dr Atwiine in response explained that the ministry was forced to quarantine travellers at this hotel after they realized that a number of those jetting in were not complying with self-isolation.
Consequently, she said, meetings were held with hoteliers and a statement issued clearly stressing that travellers would meet these costs not government.
The hotel (Entebbe Inn) she said, was arrived at due to its fair pricing on accommodation.
“That’s why we say you come at your cost, if you really choose to come you will pay the cost but I know that in Entebbe the hotels start with 150, 120 dollars. I think this was chosen because of the cost,” she argued.
The PS however, declined to comment on claims that about 20 quarantined Chinese had escaped from this hotel.
Meanwhile, Dr Atwiine warned Ugandans to be vigilant about counterfeit sanitizers that will flood the Ugandan market purporting to cure COVID-19.
“In the face of this corona we are going to see so many manufacturers, many concoctions coming on the market, claiming that they kill the virus,” Atwiine warned.
“We have already communicated to National Drug Authority to sample all the sanitizers on the market to check and find out that it must be sixty percent alcohol. Below that it’s just a joke.”
On the issue of attaining COVID-19 results in real time, Atwiine elaborated that the reason it was taking long to confirm or negate suspected cases was because of the conventional technology that is being use.
However, she said the ministry is exploring the option of acquiring rapid testing machines to ease the burden of transporting test samples from Up County areas to Entebbe based Uganda Viral Research Institute (UVRI).
In addition, Atwiine informed the committee that designating Entebbe B and Mulago hospitals as quarantine centers, regional referral hospitals had been put on stand-by just in case the situation worsens.
She assured nonetheless that Uganda is well prepared because of its experience in fending off the Ebola crisis that devastated neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
“The beauty about Uganda is that we have been exposed to so many epidemics before so we had a task force in place, we had trained our teams in the whole country to respond to any threat,” Atwiine observed.