Highlight 11/2021 – COVID Containment in Africa – The Ugandan Model
Dennis Tumukunde, 26 March 2021
The Corona Virus Disease (COVID19) that hit the world in late 2019 has affected millions of people worldwide both socially and economically. Although there were widespread fears that the COVID-19 pandemic would cause a staggering number of deaths in Africa, the total figures reported from the continent indicate otherwise. This has been attributed to the relatively young age of the population and in some cases, the inadequate testing capacity in many African countries.
Uganda recorded its first COVID-19 case on March 22, 2020, 11 days after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. The Government demonstrated its preparedness to respond to COVID-19 before the country recorded its first case. The first case triggered the Ugandan government to respond more aggressively by restricting public gatherings and imposing a curfew and a total travel ban into and out of the country, allowing only essential goods. The initial measures included restricting travel to and from high-risk countries; dispersing concentration points of people such as schools and colleges and religious, political, or social gatherings; and enforcing mandatory institutional quarantine of all incoming travellers.
From a Governance perspective, the government of Uganda had an effective national response strategy including risk communication, testing, contact tracing at district and community levels, and implementing physical and social distancing measures. Before recording their first COVID-19 case, the Ugandan government through the Ministry of Health used the “window of opportunity” (being one of the last countries to record a COVID-19 case) to act early by establishing preventive measures. This entailed screening all incoming travellers at ports of entries, training and preparing health workers, and repurposing hospitals to manage COVID-19 cases.
In conclusion from the Ugandan response, dealing with a pandemic in the twenty-first century requires a coordinated national strategy with multistakeholder and multifaceted approaches revolving around effective leadership; evidence-based risk communication; and strategic public health interventions such as mass testing, contact tracing, isolation and quarantining of affected individuals, hand hygiene, and social distancing measures. The Uganda Virus Research Institute’s experience in responding to disease outbreaks in other parts of Africa, coupled with the existence of a strong pool of local experts who are very knowledgeable in handling highly infectious organisms and a clear structure for public health emergency response within the Ministry of Health, played a major role in making Uganda’s response to COVID-19 successful. Other African countries can learn from the Ugandan model of pandemic containment, especially with the current second wave of COVID-19 or another pandemic.
Dennis TUMUKUNDE, COVID Containment in Africa – The Ugandan Model, Highlight 11/2021, available at www.meig.ch
The views expressed in the MEIG Highlights are personal to the author and neither reflect the positions of the MEIG Programme nor those of the University of Geneva.