Revisiting Uganda’s COVID-19 Crisis

In December 2019, an epidemic, COVID-19, was identified in Wuhan city in China.

The World Health Organization (WHO) later declared the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern in January 2020 and a global pandemic in March 2020.

This prompted many countries including Uganda to impose measures such as travel restrictions in an effort to contain its widespread.

The Government of Uganda thorough the Ministry of Health on March 7, 2020, issued a travel advisory to a total of seven countries calling on people there to postpone non essential travel to Uganda.

These included; China, South Korea, Italy, France, Germany, Spain and Iran. These made up some of the worst countries hit by COVID-19 at the time.

Two days later, the Government expanded the list from 7 to 16 and on the updated list, countries such as the United States and United Kingdom were added. Others included; San Marino, Belgium, Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Austria, Malaysia and Switzerland.

At that time, Uganda had not recorded any COVID-19 case and was imposing travel advisory to maintain the “no COVID-19 status.”

President Museveni would later tighten the restrictions and on March 18th 2020, ordering the shutdown of all education institutions, places of worship and banned all public meetings. The closure of education institutions would take effect on March 20th while that of places of worship and public meetings took immediate effect.


Shockingly, Uganda, on March 21, 2020, registered her first COVID-19 which threw the country into panic.

The confirmed case was a 36 year old Ugandan male who arrived from Dubai aboard Ethiopian Airlines.

The Health Minister Dr Jane Ruth Aceng said the victim presented with symptoms of “high fever and poor appetite” and was a resident of Kibuli, Kakungulu zone in Kampala.

“During the screening process at the airport, his temperature was 38.7°C. This prompted the health teams to isolate him at the airport for further follow up,” said Aceng, adding, “subsequent temperatures taken at intervals of 30 minutes and 1 hour remained the same.”

The patient would later be evacuated to Entebbe Grade B Hospital for further follow up where a nasal swab was taken from him and sent to Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) for analysis.

Results from UVRI showed the sample was positive for COVID-19.

This prompted Museveni to order the closure of all country’s borders, prohibiting any foreign national from coming in and also closed down Uganda’s airspace with a few exceptions for emergency and humanitarian work.

Addressing the nation at State House Entebbe, Museveni said the measures were in response to what he called indiscipline on part of some passengers that were allowed into the country.

Although, it was mandatory for every passenger coming to Uganda to be tested for COVID-19 and subjected to a 14 day quarantine, many would attempt to dodge the regulations especially quarantine.

On March 25, 2020, Museveni shut down public transport after an urgent meeting with his Ministers that had been held to deliberate on a way forward amidst increasing COVID-19 cases that had totaled 14 at the time.

That meant that Uganda was now under lockdown.

Four months into the lockdown, a dark cloud hit Uganda and the country on July 23rd announced its first COVID-19 death.

The deceased who was a 34 year old female and a resident of Namisindwa district was announced 2 days after her death by Dr Henry Mwebesa, the Director General Health Services at the Ministry of Health

“The deceased was initially admitted to Wasungui Health Centre II on Wednesday 15th July 2020 and treated with severe pneumonia. However, on Monday 20th July 2020, she was transferred to Joy Hospice health facility in Mbale district where she was isolated in the female ward. While in isolation, the patient’s condition deteriorated with difficulty in breathing, cough, chills and headache. Unfortunately, she passed on on Tuesday 21st July 2020 at 2:00am,” said Dr Mwebesa.

As COVID-19 cases continued to spike, President Museveni, Health Minister Dr Jane Ruth Aceng and other health experts, in various COVID-19 addresses to the nation, warned Ugandans against complacency, saying that the country would move to phase 4 of COVID-19 which is full community transmission.

On December 9, 2020, Uganda registered the unprecedented 1,199 new COVID-19 cases in a single day. This, to date, remains the highest number of COVID-19 cases recorded in a single day in Uganda.

According to the latest COVID-19 results released by the Ministry of Health on Monday December 21, 2020, 197 new cases were recorded putting the cumulative COVID-19 confirmed cases in Uganda to 31,384.

7 new COVID-19 fatalities were also reported, rising the total number of deaths in Uganda to 288.

To date, Uganda has tested a total of 713,509 COVID-19 samples.


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