Uganda has announced its biggest coronavirus cases spike in a day after 43 truck drivers tested positive for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on Friday, May 15.
The national confirmed tally has now risen to 203 cases. The new cases include 17 Ugandans, 14 Kenyans, 5 Tanzanians, 2 Burundians, 4 Eritreans and one unknown.
A breakdown of the new cases shows that from the Elegu border with South Sudan; 15 Ugandans, 9 Kenyans and 4 Eritreans tested positive for the virus.
At the Mutukula border with Tanzania; 5 Tanzanians and one Burundian national tested positive while at the Malaba border with Kenya, 5 Kenyans, two Ugandans, one Burundian and another driver whose nationality is unknown tested positive.
On Friday, a total of 2,558 samples were tested, and all the 720 community samples tested negative. The countries recoveries still stand at 63 cases with no deaths as yet.
Of Uganda’s confirmed 203 coronavirus cases, 143 are from truck drivers consisting of 57 Kenyans, 42 Ugandans, 31 Tanzanians, 7 Eritreans, 3 Burundians, one South Sudanese, one Rwandans and one unknown.
A section of Ugandans has questioned the rationale of testing cargo truck drivers and letting them continue with their journeys before receiving their results. Government claims the drivers are expected to respect the guidelines and only stop at designated stop points and must not interact with the communities. Once their results are released, they are then traced and isolated for treatment or repatriation for foreigners if they test positive for COVID-19.
On Friday, minister of Health Jane Ruth Aceng while commissioning the Port Health laboratory at Mutukula said that all truck drivers arriving via Mutukula will be tested for COVID-19 and results given within 45 minutes. "If you are found positive, you cannot proceed with your journey…If you're negative, you are released."
She said the two GeneXpert machines that were previously being used to test for Tuberculosis at the national laboratory have been modified to test for coronavirus and have the capacity to run 64 samples per hour.
Hostility towards truck drivers is growing, with many Ugandans blaming them for importing the virus into the country and keeping then under lockdown that is meant to end in two days on May 18.
Some have even accused the government of deliberately letting the truckers roam into the community so as to spread the virus into the community so as to rake up cases so as to extend the lockdown.
On Thursday, ministry of Health said there is no community transmission of the virus after only four positive cases of two police officers, a Ugandan student returnee from Tanzania and a truck driver tested positive from 14,061 samples.
In the clearest signal that the lockdown is going to be lifted next week, the government is now pushing for mandatory wearing of face masks for all people who go into the public. Those without face masks have been blocked from accessing the city centre for the past 3 days.
Meanwhile, Rwanda has shut its borders to the cargo truck drivers, with the country encouraging relay delivery where cross-border drivers take the cargo up to the borders from where it is transferred to Rwandan cargo trucks and taken to destinations by Rwandan drivers.
In a protest letter to Rwanda President Paul Kagame dated May 13, the Kenya Transporters Association said Rwanda's over-prohibitive COVID-19 measures have made business extremely difficult. The association said, because of the challenges and risks of relay driving, many drivers are now shunning Rwanda bound cargo and appealed to Kagame to apply similar measures like other East African countries.
For two straight days, Rwanda has recorded no new coronavirus cases. It’s recoveries increased by 9 to 177. On Friday 1,058 samples were tested and all turned out negative. To date, Rwanda has carried out 46,198 samples.
Out of the 2,100 samples tested in Kenya, 23 tested positive of coronavirus on Friday to take the country's tally to 781. Kenya also recorded another 3 deaths to take its coronavirus total deaths to 45 with 284 recoveries.
South Sudan recorded its first coronavirus deaths - 4 including what officials described as a 51-year-old high profile South Sudanese. Officials also reported 4 new cases.
Tanzania's cases still stand at 509 with no new reports for the past two weeks.