UVRI scales down COVID-19 testing over shortage of kits

Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI), Entebbe

The Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) is to scale down on the number of people it tests for coronavirus due to fears of running out of test kits. UVRI says only people who fit in the criteria for exposure to a confirmed case or travel history and have symptoms consistent with COVID-19 will now be tested for the virus.

UVRI says the move will ensure that testing kits are not wasted on people with different ailments who do not meet the case definition of COVID-19.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), most people infected with the COVID-19 virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and develop fever, tiredness, and dry cough. Some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhoea. Some of these patients may not even notice or show any signs or symptoms of the virus.

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Over the last two weeks, UVRI has tested 1,192 people for COVID-19, out of which, only 33 have emerged positive. The majority of these were Ugandan nationals who had just returned into the country and their contacts.

Julius Lutwama, the deputy director of UVRI says that currently, a lot of kits are being used, yet there is a looming crisis as a result of the lockdown in several countries that manufacture the kits. He adds that if the number of tests is not controlled, the country could easily run into a shortage.

He was speaking during a meeting with parliament’s taskforce on COVID-19 that visited the institute and Entebbe general referral hospital to assess the COVID-19 situation. Lutwama says they have been spending a lot of reagents and supplies which they do not have in plenty.

The institute currently has 25,000 test kits in stock. He said henceforth, they are looking at having only people meeting the case definition of COVID-19 for further examination.

Lutwama says that of the cases so far, they haven’t identified any local transmission except for the case of a child in Iganga and the couple in Hoima district. He says if Ugandans observe the guidelines, they will go a long way in defeating the virus.
UVRI director Pontiano Kaleebu says that if the infection spreads further in the country, it will better to have more testing sites with easier local testing. Currently, all samples are tested from UVRI in Entebbe.

Kaleebu says they are currently working on a plan, that could beef their capacity to test, adding that the current challenge is several people even those in quarantine are eager to know whether they are negative or not. Even after the completion of their 14-day quarantine, the suspects have to be tested again to confirm if they are negative.

Kaleebu says that they are now identifying people who are quarantined but have mixed with those who eventually tested positive, and will have to undergo an additional 14 days quarantine.

According to the ministry of Health 868 people are under institutional quarantine while 141 are under self-quarantine. 2,079 high-risk travellers have completed the mandatory quarantine with 660 contacts to the confirmed cases under follow up.


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