After 39 days of the national lockdown imposed by President Yoweri Museveni, the minister of Health, Jane Ruth Aceng updated the country on what the shutdown was meant to achieve.
In her July 27, statement Aceng said the second lockdown was meant to achieve the following:
*Enhance measures to interrupt transmission of Covid among health workers and the general population;
*Enhance risk communication and community management;
*Streamline and strengthen home-based care for Covid-19;
*Increase capacity of our health facilities to optimally manage Covid cases; and
*Continue with vaccination depending on availability of vaccines and sustain continuity of essential health services.
Sadly, the minister appears to have lied to the nation. According to the fact-finding mission conducted by the 40-strong MPs team, the people have been left to their own devices.
The country’s preparedness to contain the spread of the second wave and contain the anticipated third wave is a figment of the minds of ministry of health officials.
After weeks of on-the-ground visits to Health facilities in the central, east, north and western Uganda, MPs have found a much unprepared, underfunded and frail healthcare system almost two years after the pandemic broke out.
The MPs team in Buganda which was led by Dr Lulume Mayiga was to establish the readiness of various hospitals in managing many severe cases and critical cases of Covid-19.
The MPs were also tasked to find out whether hospitals have high dependence units, intensive care units (ICUs), human resource aligned to the treatment of patients, availability of medicines, requisite laboratory investigations, and x-ray.
They were also to establish the availability of CT scans and the human resource to run the scans including motivation of health workers in terms of risk allowances, availability of isolation centres, Covid-19 treatment units, testing kits, airtime for health workers and security personnel to enforce Covid-19 standard operating procedures.
For instance, in the central regions especially at the Uganda-Tanzania border the authorities seem to be less vigilant about who comes in and goes out of the border. The visitors are not subjected to the compulsory tests.
The MPs are worried and rightly so, that this cavalier attitude and preferential treatment given to some travellers especially those returning to the country might have opened Uganda to another wave of coronavirus.
The question, however, is why is the ministry of Health economical with the truth?
If officials don’t peddle lies, they pile blame on procurement laws to explain away their flaws. For instance the permanent secretary, Dr Diana Atwine, has consistently attributed the delay by government to procure ICU facilities on the strict procurement and public finance management laws.
Again this excuse was dismissed by the executive director of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets, Benson Turamye, who said the law provides for emergency procurements and ministry of Health has not taken advantage of this provision.
It is strange also that the ministry has insisted on relying on vaccine donations instead of making direct procurement. According to Lulume, parliament appropriated Shs 18.5bn but that money was never used to procure vaccines. The question then is how would people especially in the countryside get vaccinated if there are no vaccines?
So, what lessons have been learnt from the lockdown? In some serious countries where lockdowns have been imposed, they have taken the opportunity to identify the hotspots, and what to do about them.
They have done testing. Have learnt better ways of containing the spread of the virus. In Uganda, we have learnt nothing and the only remedy appears to be to misadvise the president about the efficacy of lockdown.