On Wednesday, police backed by the military started enforcing travel restrictions blocking private and public vehicles entering or leaving Gulu district. The resident district commissioner Maj Santo Okot Lapolo made the order.
The restrictions followed President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni’s directives during a televised address on Monday imposing 14 days’ lockdown on eight districts with evidence of high community COVID-19 transmissions.
According to the president, the districts with a potential cluster of infections still under surveillance include; Adjumani, Amuru, Arua, Buikwe, Kyankwanzi, Kyotera, Luweero, Nebbi, Moyo and Tororo.
On Wednesday Gulu taskforce through the district LC V chairperson Martin Ojara Mapenduzi, wrote to the national task force through Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, the minister of Health requesting for a review the decision of locking down Gulu district.
In his letter, Mapenduzi cited only four community infection cases of the contagion in the district who are undergoing treatment. He also argued that all the contacts of the patients have been traced by the surveillance team and put under mandatory institutional and self-quarantine.
But in her response letter dated June 24, minister Aceng said the district will remain under lockdown for now. She cited the case of a 23-year-old male who tested positive at Laroo health centre and is currently hospitalized at Gulu regional referral hospital treatment unit.
“His contacts in Gulu are still under routine follow up till 29th June with potential to convert either COVID-19 positive or negative.” Aceng’s letter partly read. Adding that, “Therefore a decision to unlock your district will be taken after 29th June, 2020.”
Aceng also lauded the district taskforce for vigilance, commitment and successfully managing many COVID-19 cases and other response activities. She further urged the leaders to inform the population accordingly.
Up to 75 cumulative patients for COVID-19 have been discharged from the treatment centre at Gulu hospital since April. However, currently there are 43 active cases still undergoing treatment at the facility.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of WHO says that during such a time, it's vital for countries to concentrate on providing oxygen to handle complex cases.
"Even as we continue research into vaccines and therapeutics, we have an urgent responsibility to do everything we can with the tools we have now to suppress transmission and save lives. One of the most effective ways of saving lives is providing oxygen to patients who need it. Patients with severe and critical COVID-19 cannot get enough oxygen into their blood by breathing normally," Dr Ghebreyesus said.
According to doctors, patients with severe forms of COVID-19 require high amounts of oxygen to get better. If left untreated, severe COVID-19 deprives cells and organs of the oxygen they need, which ultimately leads to organ failure and death. Medical oxygen is produced using oxygen concentrators, which extract and purify oxygen from the air.
WHO estimates that at the current rate of about 1 million new cases a week, the world needs about 620,000 cubic meters of oxygen a day, which are about 88,000 large cylinders.
In Uganda, Shs 44.2 billion has been earmarked for purchasing Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds and building two oxygen plants at Mulago National Referral hospital and Entebbe Regional hospital in preparation for any severe COVID-19 cases.