“When Dr Ruth Aceng Announced First Coronavirus In Uganda, The Fight At Entebbe Airport”

By Goodluck Musinguzi

Uganda is counting 50 plus days since they announced the first coronavirus case shattering hopes of many who thought the disease would not reach. As we approach two months, Ugandans will have sacrificed alot as they have kept indoors with only essential workers allowed on the streets.

Hon Dr Ruth Jane Aceng and Dr Diana Atwine, Minister of Health and Permanent Secretary respectively were pacing up and down as neighbouring countries started reporting Coronavirus cases. They are prayerful ladies ,hard working and fighters.

One sunday afternoon, Dr Ruth Aceng acompanied by heads of WHO and CDC in Uganda visited Entebbe Airport as a follow up visit regarding readness of country against Covid-19.

Reports had shown that VIPs most especially Members of Parliament were entering Uganda from high risk countries without being checked. The Minister accompanied by selected media demonstrated how the checking should be done.

However, Kanungu district had reported a suspect and the country was waiting for results. While at Entebbe Airport, Dr Ruth Aceng was visibly worried.

Dr Ruth Jane Aceng reached out to Dr Yonas Tegegn WOLDEMARIAM, World Health Organisation Representative Uganda for a small chat but could be heard asking a question that had bothered her.

“In the eventuality that we get first case that turns positive, how shall we inform country”, Dr Aceng asked.

We cant tell what they agreed on but the reality was around the corner. Kanungu suspect turned out negative and a sigh of relief was experienced.

However, on 21st March 2020 a 36 year old Ugandan male arrived from Dubai aboard Ethiopian Airlines. Dr Ruth Aceng announced to the country the next day on 22nd March 2020.

Entebbe airport was looked at closely because some countries were shutting down airports and travellers were trying to reach their destination in time.

It was a dark moment that led to different events that have pushed Uganda in Lockdown for over 50 days. Words like social distancing became common.

One evening, Hon Ruth Jane Aceng and Dr Diana Atwine returned to Entebbe Airport checking on efforts to build a better place that could handle thousands of passengers.

It was a long night that turned into a fight as the two ladies challenged authorities at Entebbe Airport as regards passengers entering Uganda.

Rwanda Air flew in with 68 passengers from Kigali International airport after they were rejected as people from high risk nations most especially South Korea.

Dr Aceng and Dr Diana took charge of the situation stood their ground so that they protect Ugandans. Entebbe Airport officials started quoting International protocols but a war had be declared.

Calls were made to authorities in Uganda’s Security apparatus who agreed that Rwanda Air returns to Kigali International airport.

Days later the plan for lockdown was announced with schools closing, public transport and other measures.
On March 10th, 36 States in America were reporting cases of the viral coronavirus. The world was planning for hard days that are not going away soon.

After 50 days , Uganda has crossed the 100 mark with 114 cases most especially from Truck drivers long after the Airport was closed.

Majority of the coronavirus patients who are hospitalised at Entebbe, Mulago and Masaka hospitals are responding to treatment and seem to be improving, the Health ministry has said.

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Additional reporting by Dr Ruth Jane Aceng’s update to World Health Organisation.
Status of Uganda’s preparedness on the 2019-Coronavirus Outbreak
12 February 2020

Kampala, 12th February 2020: The Ministry of Health Uganda would like to update the general public on the progress in regards to prevention of the 2019-novel Coronavirus.

Current Global situation
As of today 11th February 2020, a total of 40,554 cases have been confirmed including 909 deaths. This is double the number of confirmed cases in one week. Outside China, 319 confirmed cases have been reported in 24 countries. To date, no country in Africa has reported any confirmed case of coronavirus but the continent remains at high risk due to ease of international travel.

Situation in Uganda
Uganda has no confirmed case of 2019-novel Coronavirus. However, the Ministry of Health remains vigilant to identify any person who may develop or arrive with the disease. As of 10th February, 220 travellers from and with links to China have been assessed by our medical teams at the airport and advised on appropriate measures to take in case they develop signs and symptoms of the coronavirus infection. They are under isolation at their homes with daily follow up by the surveillance officers. 100 have completed 10 days. None have developed signs and symptoms of the 2019- novel coronavirus.

The Ministry of Health has undertaken the following measures to prevent, detect and respond to 2019-Coronavirus importation.

  1. Ensured that Uganda Virus Research Institute has the necessary equipment and reagents to test and confirm any suspected 2019-Coronavirus samples in-country. This will enable early case detection, containment and management of the disease.
  2. Developed an information sheet that is distributed to travelers with telephone numbers of officers. This will facilitate travellers who are not feeling well to call for information and help at any time.
  3. Strengthened screening at Entebbe International Airport. This is done using a Thermo scanner that is able to pick a person’s temperature within a crowd in a range of 4- 20 meters. It then identifies the person with raised temperature and creates a picture of the individual with finer details on a different screen. A health worker monitors images generated by the scanner from a different screen. The larger screen where people would view themselves was removed after concerns that photographs were being taken without the people’s consent. The filled forms are deposited with the health worker at the health checkpoint before the traveller proceeds to the Immigration checkpoint.
  4. Travellers from affected countries are provided with information on 2019-novel coronavirus, where to report and seek care should they develop symptoms, and on self-isolation for a period of 14 days. These travellers are being followed up by surveillance officers on a daily basis for up to 14 days.
  5. Provision of information to the public through the available media outlets and other communication channels.
  6. Risk mapping and assessment of vulnerable locations in the country. This is to identify possible avenues of importation of 2019-novel coronavirus and high-risk areas for intensified surveillance.
  7. Entebbe and Naguru referral hospitals have been strengthened to manage people who might fall sick. Ambulances have been provided to transport the suspected cases to the appropriate level of care.

The Ministry of Health appeals to all people especially travellers from the affected countries to cooperate with health workers to strengthen and sustain vigilance against 2019-Coronavirus.

Key messages to the public

  1. Avoid close contact with people who are visibly sick with flu-like symptoms (fever, cough, sneezing and running nose).
  2. Cover the mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then throw the tissue in the dustbin and wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.
  3. When infected with any flu – avoid crowds, and use a face-mask to cover the nose and mouth.
  4. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  5. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  6. Stay home and call for help from health workers when you experience symptoms of coronavirus to avoid spreading illness to others.
  7. Regularly clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces such as door handles.

The Ministry of Health further appeals to the general public to remain calm and report any suspicious cases to the nearest health facility or call our toll free lines 0800-203-033 and 0800-100-066, and the following officers- Mr. Atek Kagirita-0782 909153, Dr. Allan Muruta-0772 460297, Dr. Opar Bernard- 0772 469323

Hon. Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng
Minister of Health
11th February, 2020

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