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Uganda further eases COVID-19 restrictions as cases drop to near zero

KAMPALA (XINHUA) – Uganda’s Ministry of Health further eased COVID-19 restrictions as the east African country’s positive cases are consistently dropping to near zero.

The ministry has stopped retesting of incoming travellers from the east African region provided they arrive with test results from their point of departure.

Ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Ainebyoona told Xinhua that the suspension took immediate effect.

“Uganda will recognise COVID-19 PCR results from the East African Community (EAC) state laboratories that were jointly accredited by EAC for COVID-19 testing. Travellers should come with COVID results taken within 72 hours,” the ministry said in a statement.

EAC member countries include Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan.

On Tuesday, the Democratic Republic of Congo was also admitted to the community.

The ministry said COVID-19 PCR results were currently not required for fully vaccinated travellers including truck drivers to cross the land border entry points.

Ugandans receive Pfizer vaccinations at the Kiswa Health Centre III in the Bugolobi neighbourhood of Kampala, Uganda. PHOTO: AP

Ainebyoona noted that PCR tests would be maintained for travellers who come in through the country’s airport, Entebbe International Airport.

The ministry has also integrated COVID-19 vaccination into routine immunisation at most of the health facilities in the country. Previously there were special COVID-19 vaccination exercises across the country following an increase in the number of cases.

The number of medical personnel recruited to manage the pandemic has also been reduced as cases have dropped and there is no money to pay the health workers’ wages, according to the ministry.

“Following the reduction of cases of COVID-19 in the country, coupled with budgetary constraints, it has been decided to scale down the number of health workers under Emergency Response to COVID-19,” the ministry said in a recent circular to hospital heads.

Those affected by the scale down are health workers on non-gratuity contracts who were deployed in COVID-19 treatment centres.

The ministry directed managers of referral hospitals and other government medical facilities to mainstream the management of COVID-19 into the main structure to ensure continuity of service delivery in hospitals.

The ministry in July last year recruited hundreds of health workers as the country faced a virulent second wave of the pandemic. The new recruits were beefing up the existing workforce, which was overwhelmed by the surging number of cases.

The country then imposed second lockdown efforts to reduce the rapid spread of the pandemic. The first lockdown was imposed in March 2020 when the country registered the first COVID-19 case.

The country in January fully reopened the economy after close to two years of restrictions.

Ministry of Health figures as of March 30 showed there were only two cases admitted to health facilities, with only 14 daily cases being registered.

Cumulatively, the country has registered 163,892 infections with 3,595 deaths and 100,167 recoveries. The total number of COVID-19 vaccine doses administered in the country stands at 18.6 million.