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    FULL ADDRESS: Minister Aceng Warns Women To Stop Sleeping With Truck Drivers, Apologizes For Delay In Paying Allowances To Health Workers And Frontline Workers In The COVID-19 Response…

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    Dr Jane Ruth Aceng
    Minister of Health
    18thApri1, 2020
    Update on the COVID-19 response in Uganda
    18th April 2020- As you may all recall, Uganda registered her first case of COVID19 on Saturday 21 st March, 2020. As of today, the country has a cumulative number of 55 confirmed cases of COVID-19. All the confirmed cases were admitted in Entebbe Grade B hospital, Mulago National Specialized Hospital, Adjumani and Hoima Hospitals.

    To-date, 20 patients have been discharged; Entebbe Grade B (7), Mulago National Specialised Hospital (1 1), Adjumani (l) and Hoima (1), leaving a total of 35 active cases. Uganda has NOT registered any COVID-19 related deaths.

    Allow me in a special way to appreciate H. E the President of the Republic of Uganda for the swift and decisive way in which he has commanded and guided the national task force for COVID 19 including issuing the 35 guidelines for prevention of infection to the general public to follow and adhere to. His Excellency has addressed the public several times and repeatedly emphasized on prevention and suppression of transmission.
    I would also like to appreciate the Health workers at the frontline in this battle. You are doing a good job in spite of the challenges and you are highly valued.

    I cannot forget to thank the communities, the entire population of Uganda for your resilience, support and cooperation. The direction in which this pandemic will move in our country will be determined by you, your behavior, support and cooperation. I have no doubt that you have been listening to the President, following his advise and the guidelines given to you by the Ministry of Health and also listening to what is happening throughout the world and are ready to ensure that COVID19 does not spread to manageable levels in Uganda.

    Following the declaration of the 14 days Lock down, the Ministry of Health developed a lock down strategic plan with 6 action points aimed at combing the country to ensure that all potential sources of infection are identified, tested and managed accordingly.
    The Action plan included;
    I. Following up of contacts and alerts and testing all.
    Il. Testing all those in quarantine and discharging those who test negative and have not had another contact
    Ill. Supporting decentralization of surveillance and management of patients to the regional and district levels.
    IV. Enhancing risk communication to the regional levels, districts and the communities.
    V. Screening and testing of all incoming cargo drivers from the East African community area
    VI. Identifying, mapping and testing all returnees who came back between 7th and
    22nd March when the airport was closed.

    ACHIEVEMENTS OF THE COVID-19 RESPONSE DURING THE 14-DAY LOCK DOWN PERIOD

    I. Management of confirmed cases
    As of today, Uganda has a cumulative number of 55 confirmed cases. Of these, 20 have recovered while 35 are active cases. Please note that this is a cumulative number comprising recoveries. Active cases are the cases that still have the virus and are undergoing treatment at the respective health facilities.

    From the onset of the Pandemic to date, a total of 9,975 persons have been done, of which 9,920 are negative and 55 were confirmed positive.

    An analysis of the confirmed cases reveals the following; History of travel — 46 persons broken down as follows
    30 from quarantine sites
    5 directly from the Airport
    12 returned following the appeal to all those who returned from Dubai to come for testing
    1 truck driver from Malaba point of entry
    No History of travel — 7 persons, broken down as follows;
    7 contacts of returnees (l- Lwengo (UAE) I-Kyengera/Nkonkonjeru (UAE), l- Kyanja (UAE), I-Kayunga (Rwanda) and 1- Katabi (unknown bodaboda), 1 from Adjumani and I from Iganga.

    All staff in Entebbe hospital who have been taking care of the patients have been screened for COVID-19 and all tested NEGATIVE. This means they are appropriately following the Infection Control Procedures in the Isolationfacilities. A repeat test will be done after 2 weeks.

    Preparation of patients for discharge includes; counseling the community where the patient is going to avoid stigma and discrimination, psychosocial counseling to the discharged case, a 14-day follow up of the person to provide psycho social support and risk communication. The discharged patient with a discharge certificate, results slip of the last test and the SOPs of “DOs and DONTs”.

    Il. Follow up of Contacts and Alerts
    A cumulative total of 1,396 contacts to the confirmed cases have been registered since the declaration of the first confirmed case, 1,078 have completed their 14 days of follow up, screening and or testing. 317 contacts are still under follow up. So far, 1,246 (89%) contacts have been tested after 10 days of daily follow up.

    All contacts to confirmed cases are followed up daily by our surveillance officers for 14 days. If they develop signs and symptoms of COVID-19, they are tested and if found positive, isolated for treatment.

    Institutional Quarantine

    Institutional Quarantine was an intervention that greatly limited the spread of infection to the communities. In spite of the challenges, 30 of the cumulative 55 confirmed cases were identified from Institutional quarantine. The cumulative number of persons quarantined to date is 2,661 country wide. Currently, a total of 437 people are still under institutional quarantine. (30 in Entebbe, 53 in Kampala,
    354 in upcountry sites)

    Ill. High risk returnees
    A total of 18,860 high risk returnees between 7th 22nd March were identified through the information obtained from the flight manifest. From the 6th March to 16th March, several people were put under self quarantine and successfully followed up. Those who came in from the 17th to 22nd March, from the high risk countries were put under institutional quarantine. A good number came back following the call from the Ministry of Health to those who returned from Dubai. Of the 9,975 tests done to date, 2,878 are from the border points of entry, 700 are contacts and 6,397 are part of the high risk travelers. In total, over 8,000 people have already been identified and cleared. Others have been reached during follow up and contract tracing. The process of reaching out to the returnees is still ongoing with support from the Telecom companies.

    A Nose and throat swab and blood samples may be removed from the persons once reached depending on the assessment by the surveillance officers to rule out the possibility of asymptomatic infections. I request those not yet reached to be patient and cooperate for the exercise to be completed this coming week.
    Support to Districts and Regional Referral Hospitals to enhance their capacity to respond to the pandemic and offer basic medical services.

    Each district has been provided with funds to facilitate the various functions of surveillance, contact tracing, sample removal and testing, quarantine, risk communication and case management.

    Training of district and regional referral hospitals teams on COVID 19 preparedness and response is being rapidly undertaken. The exercise includes training of case management teams and setting up isolation facilities.

    Ministry of Health has deployed a team of four specialists per region comprising of a senior clinician, a senior Ministry of Health officer and two epidemiologists. These teams will carry out the following tasks o Train the regional and district health teams to build their capacity for handling cov1D19 cases.
    Support coordination of information and prompt reporting to the incident command center.

    Support the districts to carry out surveillance and contact tracing within the communities.
    Support risk communication activities throughout the parishes and villages by ensuring that the district leadership engages the village health teams o Support the districts to ensure smooth continuity of the other basic health services for all ailments.

    All districts and Regional Referral Hospitals have received protective wear, sample removal kits and other supplies to enable them safely remove samples and send for testing.

    V. Risk communication
    The district leadership is being supported to disseminate preventive messages and other Key messages related to Standard operating procedures for many areas as prepared by the health promotion and communication teams of the ministry of health and partners. These messages have been translated into 7 different languages. The districts are encouraged to use all channels of communication including the
    Village health teams to disseminate preventive messages information.

    VI. Screening and Testing of Cargo transporters
    The Ministry of Health began screening and testing truck drivers across the 53 Points of Entry. To-date, a total of 2,878 samples from truck drivers have been screened and tested, of these I Ugandan truck driver tested positive, while the other two were from Kenya and Tanzania respectively. On average, 2,500 trucks cross the border points daily. In light of the high numbers at the Points of Entry, the Ministry of Health working with the districts is training more health workers and will increase the number of health workers manning these points.

    The high numbers of truck drivers crossing into the country will require a substantial amount of test kits. Further discussions will be held with the East African community member countries on how to handle this area.
    I am aware that many of you have been questioning why we do not hold the truck drivers until their test results are returned.

    This is because;
    l. They are transporting critical supplies that could save many lives during this lockdown both locally and regionally
    2. If we hold them at the borders for a long time, crowding occurs. Crowding is a risk factor for transmission of COVID-19. Standard Operating procedures have been developed to allow for easy tracking of the truck drivers. They are also given the Do’s and Don’ts guidelines to follow and strictly advised not to interact with any of the communities along the way to their destination. Implementation of the above six strategies is still ongoing. Subsequently, on 14th April, following the end of the 14 days lock down period, H.E the President of Uganda declared an extension of the lockdown for an additional 21 days (14th April to 5th May).

    REMINDER OF WHY GOVERNMENT UNDERTOOK AN EXTENSION OF THE LOCK DOWN
    The purpose of a lockdown or extreme social distancing is to suppress transmission by reducing the number of people any undetected yet positive case in the community can infect.
    The goal is to ensure that each confirmed case infects less than one person, on average.

    Justification for the 21 day lockdown

    a) Evidence available from the response to the COVID-19 pandemic in countries where Lock down was delayed or shortened (USA, Italy, Spain and other countries in Europe) compared to others (South Korea, Singapore, Hongkong, Japan and China) where Lockdowns were implemented early in the pandemic and prolonged for over 2 to 3 months shows a better outcome in countries where time was taken to fully implement activities which were identified to reduce suppression of the virus.

    b) The experience from the Asian countries that have flattened the curves or kept their infection rates very low shows that very strict tracking, testing and quarantining of exposed individuals and their contacts has a big impact on the spread of the disease at community level.

    c) The 14 days Lockdown strategy had only been partially implemented.
    d) Extreme social distancing measures for the un-infected people reduces the mixing with infected people and protects them as the surveillance system operates to track and quarantine all exposed individuals. More emphasis needs to be put on this.
    e) The lock-down reduced the pressure on the surveillance system and the health system by keeping the numbers low. The country must maintain the low numbers and low rates of infection.—when the numbers of exposed and infected individuals grows so fast, the stress on the system is huge and the system cannot cope as we have seen in several countries in Europe and USA where the response was initially slow. With the potential sources of infection still not fully identified and with the numbers of confirmed cases in the neighboring countries rising, it would be too soon to lift the Lockdown.

    What is Government doing in the 21 days of lockdown?

    Ministry of Health will ensure that all the six action points are implemented. Focus will be put on the following areas:
    Screening and testing all the Cargo transporters. Working with URA and Ministry of Transport, our surveillance officers have been oriented on how to track the cargo transporters. Standard operating procedures, Joint border clearance forms (JBCF) with details of the truck driver indicating his origin and destination have been developed for them to fill, truck routes have been mapped for the cargo transporters to follow without deviation and a tracking mechanism is in place for the surveillance officers to quickly track them and return them to the country of origin or quarantine them accordingly. Two (2) mobile PCR laboratories have been procured and will be received in the country tomorrow, Sunday 19th April 2020 and officially commissioned by the Rt. Hon. Prime Minister of Uganda. They will be deployed at the congested border points to quicken testing and return of results.

    I appeal to all of you who live along the roads followed by the truck drivers including the women who interact with them for different purposes to stay away from these truck drivers. During this period of Lock down, please do not accept visitors into your homes, not even neighbors, ensure adequate physical distancing with people who do not live with you every day. Stay at home, avoid trading centers and other business places because you do not know where your friend has been or whether he/she is safe. Those who defiantly use these trucks as a means of transport during this lockdown period are warned to stop these unlawful activities.

    Routinely test all health workers who are carrying out surveillance and managing COVID 19 positive patients in isolation. An inventory of health workers responding to this pandemic has been generated and testing has started and will be carried out every 7-14 days.

    Test all other incoming people like the UN staff who come to give support, identify illegal entrants into the country through the porous borders with support from the communities and test them Enhance risk communication to ensure everybody is aware about the potential danger of COVID 19. The Ministry of Health would like to hear from you on a weekly basis.

    The Ministry website and the twitter handle will publish an online survey to obtain feedback from you about our response.
    To ensure that the country is cleared of all pockets of transmission, the Ministry will carry out a rapid assessment survey focusing on previously known foci of transmission and points of congregation of trucks.

    Essential Medical Services

    I appeal to all health workers, and all health facilities to continue offering essential health services. Systems to facilitate patients to access services have been clearly communicated by H.E the President. KCCA should ensure that they publish all their routes and necessary phone numbers for the population in Kampala to access transport to health facilities. All the District Health Officers are again reminded to ensure that transport is available for the sick and vulnerable women and children to access health facilities. Ministry of Health is in the process of deploying the vehicles donated to the districts that are largely lacking transport facilities to support this process. Let us work together to provide the much needed services to our people and reduce the non-COVID related mortalities to avoid reversing the gains that we had made.

    Welfare of Health Workers and Frontline Workers

    The Ministry of Health regrets the delay in the payment of allowances to health workers and frontline workers in the COVID-19 response. We are in the process of ensuring that these allowances are swiftly paid after receiving bank account details of the health workers in this response from their respective supervisors.

    The Ministry will also ensure that health workers and frontline workers benefit from the donations to the COVID-19 response. This process has already started.

    Update on Research
    Scientists supporting Government in this response have prepared over 30 protocols for research to answer the some of the questions that we continue to ask as this is a new virus
    Lastly, I would like to, in a special way and with deep appreciation recognize the tireless efforts of the health workers, public, private not for profit and private service providers.
    The Ministry continues to appeal to the general public to remain calm and practice the preventive measures. Wash your hands with soap and water or use an alcohol based hand rub at least three times a day, maintain a social distance of at least 4 meters and if you have flu like symptoms, cover your nose and mouth with a mask. To report any suspected cases of COVID-19, call the Ministry of Health toll free lines on 0800-100-066, 0800-203-033 or 0800-303-033. You can call the shorter toll free code on 919. Residents of Kampala are advised to call 0800-990-000 or 0204660-816.

    Thank you.
    Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng
    MINISTER FOR HEALTH
    18thApri1, 2020

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    CRIME

    Ssegirinya, Ssewanyana Lawyers To Challenge DPP Abodo’s Plan To Hide Witnesses, Mabirizi Wants Trial To Be Halted Over Constitutional Court Petition…

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    Lawyers representing embattled Kawempe North Member of Parliament (MP) Muhammad Ssegirinya, Makindye West’s Allan Ssewanyana and other accused persons are set to put up a spirited legal fight against the Director Public Prosecution (DPP) Justice Jane Abodo’s plans to hide the State witnesses in the main criminal trial before the Crimes War Division of the High Court.

    On Thursday, Justice Abodo, through her Assistant Lino Anguzo, the lead prosecutor in the trial told the pre-trial presiding judge Justice Elizabeth Jane Alividza that they have filed an ex-parte application to allow the state to protect the witnesses from the media and the public when they are testifying.

    Lino told Court that the witnesses they want to protect are very instrumental in their case and they will play a strong part to help Court to deliver justice to the accused persons and the deceased.

    However, speaking to theGrapevine, Geoffrey Turyamusima, one of the lawyers representing the accused persons insisted that they have agreed with their clients to challenge the witness protection application.

    “No, we are going to challenge that application, they have disclosed to us the witnesses who are set to testify against our clients and we have been seeing some of these witnesses in the media.

    “They are the family members of the deceased, friends and security personnel. Now, what do they want to protect?” Turyamusima wondered.

    Court has not yet set the hearing date for the application and other applications including the human rights enforcement application and the bail applications of all the accused persons.

    Other accused persons on the file are; Jackson Kanyike, Jude Mugerwa, Bull Wamala, Mike Sserwadda and Jude Muwongo.

    They are all together with the legislators battling murder, attempted murder and terrorism charges.

    State alleges that the accused persons were behind the Greater Masaka panga wielding goons who killed over 28 elderly people.

    LAWYER MABIRIZI WANTED TO HELD THE TRIAL

    In a new development, controversial incarcerated city lawyer Hassan Male Mabirizi has applied to the Crimes War Division of the High Court to halt the pre-trial of the accused persons until the determination of his Constitutional petition against the Attorney General.

    In his Constitutional petition, Mabirizi insisted that Ssegirinya and Ssewanyana are being politically persecuted by the state and the additional criminal charges brought against them are unjustifiable.

    However, Turyamusima told theGrapevine that they will oppose Mabirizi’s application to stay proceedings of their clients because he doesn’t want them to rot in prison given that the Constitution Court is going to take a lot of time to determine his Constitutional petition.

    Turyamusima added that what they want as per now is a speedy trial for their clients because they have established that the state doesn’t have evidence against them.

    He emphasised that the only application filed by Mabirizi, which they will support is the one where he calls for merging of the two files, one at the Crimes War Division of the High Court and the other at Masaka High Court.

    Recently, the accused persons applied for the merging of both files and the presiding judge promised that their matter will be handled in the pre-trial process.

    Early this year, Justice Musa Sekaana, the head of the High Court Civil Division Kampala sentenced Mabirizi to 18 months imprisonment on charges of contempt of Court.

     

    By Sengooba Alirabaki

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    AFRICA FOCUS

    UPDF Commandos Join Deadly Operation To Hunt Top Ugandan Terrorists Who Escaped From DRC Prison…

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    Commandos of the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) have joined the deadly operation to hunt for and arrest top Ugandan terrorists who escaped from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) prison early this week.

     Brig. Gen. Felix Kulayigye, the UPDF spokesperson confirmed the development and explained to theGrapevine that the reason why they joined the DRC’s army FARDC was after establishing that among the 822 prisoners who escaped, there were top terrorists who were recently arrested.

     “Since we joined the operation, we have already arrested more than 150 prisoners who escaped from a government prison in Butembo town. We are very sure that all of them will be arrested because them being out there is a threat to the entire region’s security,” he said.

     He added that preliminary investigation established that ADF terrorists were involved in the attack and their top aim was to help their friends to escape and join them to continue terrorising the entire region.

     DRC government also claims that the operation, which took only 15 minutes was masterminded by ADF terrorists. The prison was allegedly raided after ADF learnt that their friends who were arrested by the security were set to be evacuated to other big government prisons.

     Captain Anthony Mualushayi, the spokesperson for the operation hunting for the escaped prisoners revealed that the attackers come from Mwalika valley and were 80 in number.

    They used their weapons and machetes to open the prison doors to help their own including a one Kizito and other 12 deadly ADF terrorists from Uganda to escape.

     Capt. Mualushayi added that over 8 people were killed in the operation including five assailants, two policemen and a prisoner who was killed by the terrorist when was resisting their orders.

     He said that by the time reinforcements came, the terrorists had fled the place.

     However, they managed to trace their tracks and arrested two of them with AK47 guns and several rounds of ammunitions.

     UPDF decided to join DRC to hunt DRC for ADF terrorists after they made several attacks on Ugandans that left some victims dead.

     

    By Sengooba Alirabaki

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    CRIME

    Speaker Among, Top Parliament Staff To Be Quizzed Over MP Kagabo’s Shs40m Bribe Allegations; Legislator Risks Losing His Bukoto South Seat…

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    MP Twaha Kagabo (L) and Speaker Anita Among (R)

    Detectives from the office of the Inspector General of Government (IGG) are set to record statements from the Speaker of parliament Annet Anita Among and other parliamentary staff on the allegations of giving Shs40m bribe to Members of Parliament.

    Ali Munira, the spokesperson of the office of the IGG revealed that their detectives have widened their investigations and a number of witnesses will been summoned to record statements over Dr. Twaha Kagabo’s bribe allegations.

    She declined to confirm whether speaker Among will record a statement.

    However, multiple credible sources in the IGG’s office confirmed that Speaker Among will record a statement on grounds that she is a subject matter in the allegation.

    Kagabo claims that in July this year, he received a phone call telling him to go to Nakasero at the home of speaker Among and pick his gift. When he reached Among’s house, he was given Shs40m and told that it was a package from parliament administration prepared for legislators.

    Sources at the IGG’s office divulged that Kagabo has recorded two statements and was ordered to report to the IGG’s office every day to establish how far the investigations against the allegations have reached.

    Sources added that among other people the detectives want to pick statements from are officers from Uganda Communication Communication who will help to verify the owners of the phone numbers which were used to call Kagabo to allegedly go to the Speakers home, to pick his gift.

    The Investigators will also rely on the evidence of the CCTV cameras at the speaker’s home around Nakasero to establish whether the legislator was seen at the home of the speaker at that particular time.

    Among denied all the allegations and recommended that the legislator be taken to Rules, Privileges and Disciplinary parliamentary Committee and be investigated.

    Sources in parliament revealed that the speaker will also testify in the Committee to defend herself.

    However, Uganda’s representative in the East African parliament and a renown senior legislator James Kakooza told theGrapevine that Kagabo is in big trouble and he cannot survive losing his Bukoto South parliamentary seat.

    He explained that the Leadership Code is very clear that when a person holding a public office receives a gift worth more than Shs400,000, he or she has to declare it to the IGG within 24 hours which he failed to do.

    He added that it will be hard for Kagabo to place Among on the scene of crime because there is no touchable evidence since he didn’t sign anywhere when he was given the money and the speaker herself was not the one handing him the bribe.

    “I think my young brother was playing politics and he is finished. Now, what we want the investigators to tell us is, who gave him that ‘kanyama’ (bodyguard) who was carrying the bag which contained the money. I established that my young brother was under captive and the Kanyama was the one ordering him to do whatever he did,” Kakooza said.

    NUP’s president Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu alis Bobi Wine praised Kagabo for following his advice and returning the bribe like he advised his legislators unlike his other colleagues who received the bribe but refused to return it.

    He pleaded to IGG and other investigation agencies to investigate the matter with care instead of victimising the legislator.

     

    By Sengooba Alirabaki

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