GeneXpert machines were deployed in Mutukula
The newly launched coronavirus testing laboratories deployed at various border points, and Kampala, are lying idle due to lack of reagents.
Following a massive pile-up of cargo trucks at the borders - sometimes, stretching as far as over 50km, the ministry of Health promised weeks ago to scale up testing to 10,000 samples per day following the installation of the mobile laboratories.
The country currently tests between 1,000 and 2,500 samples daily for coronavirus disease majorly at the Entebbe based Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI).
The highest number of samples tested in a single day is 2,729 last Thursday. As the Mutukula border with Tanzania, two GeneXpert machines were installed to carry out on spot testing.
Labs that were accredited but remain largely redundant include Makerere University's department of microbiology and immunology, the Infectious Disease Research Collaboration in Tororo district, the Uganda Virus Research Institute Plague Laboratory in Arua district, Gulu University, Rakai Health Sciences Laboratory and the Fort Portal regional referral hospital laboratory.
Asked why the number of the tested samples has hardly changed even after the installation of an additional seven laboratories, Health minister Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, said some of the labs including the mobile ones at the border of Uganda and Kenya in Malaba, and the one on the border of Uganda with South Sudan at Elegu have not yet started testing.
She said they are still waiting for the arrival of reagents ordered recently. Aceng revealed that as Uganda, there’s nothing that can be done now since the lack of reagents is a global challenge - whereby all the orders are reviewed by an established global consortium to assess each country's most immediate needs.
Commenting about the same, ministry of Health permanent secretary Dr Diana Atwine said that currently, most of the samples are mainly tested at the UVRI and the National Public Health Laboratories in Butabika.
She said if they had test kits, they would be testing more samples. She added that the number of samples tested would even be lower if the neighbouring countries tested their own drivers.
Atwine said most of the country's testing is conducted on incoming foreign truck drivers. Results from the recent rapid community assessment revealed that there is no community coronavirus transmission in the country.
Of the confirmed 253 cases as of May 26, only 9 sporadic community cases have been identified since March 22 when Uganda confirmed its first coronavirus case. Nearly all the confirmed cases are imported cases from Ugandan returnees and truck drivers.