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By Joel Mugabi

The Director General of Health Services at the Ministry of Health (MoH), Dr Henry Mwebesa, has confirmed the rise of Uganda’s Covid19’s Omicron variant cases, almost two weeks since the first seven cases were recorded.

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In an update on the Covid19 response and government’s preparedness to deal with the threat of new variants, Dr Mwebesa noted that following genomic sequencing of more samples at the Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI), more Omicron cases were confirmed.

The number has now increased from seven, which were confirmed by the Health Ministry on December 07, to 25 – meaning that 18 new cases of the newly discovered variant have been confirmed. The latest confirmed Omicron cases were from the genomic sequencing of samples obtained from travelers through Entebbe International Airport between November 28 and 29.

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The Director General further noted that the new Omicron cases were imported from South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria, according to laboratory findings. He added that most of these patients were under home isolation in Kampala and Wakiso Districts. He also revealed that MoH is yet to confirm any secondary cases of the Omicron variant, any significant shift in transmission, or even changes in severity of the illness amongst the patients.

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But since the inception of mandatory testing of all passengers at Entebbe International Airport on October 27, 2021, the Ministry says the number of positive cases among incoming travelers has increased from a daily average of six to 90 cases in the past seven days, with most of these new infections detected among travelers from Kenya, South Africa, South Sudan, Congo, Tanzania, and Rwanda.

First confirmed in Southern Africa last month, Omicron remains a variant of concern. Preliminary scientific findings indicate that in the over 60 countries it has been recorded, the strain is said to be highly transmissible, and, as Dr Mwebesa puts it, the variant appears likely to replace the existing SARS CoV2 viruses and variants.

“It also appears to have a shorter incubation period, and infects both infants and adults, and affects the unvaccinated more,” further explained the Director General. “However, the Ministry of Health has observed that the mortality and severity of the omicron variant appears to be lower than the delta variant.”

He went on to reveal that MoH is working with regional and national authorities in South Africa to understand the omicron virus better and ensure optimal response and control. In the meantime, Mwebesa continued, the Health Ministry has accelerated Covid19 vaccination. “Variants emerge when the vaccine coverage is low. Therefore, accelerating vaccination will deny transmission of the virus among susceptible individuals,” he said, adding that MoH was also intensifying mandatory testing, and follow-up of positive cases for all incoming travelers at the five major points of entry (PoEs) of Malaba, Elegu, Busia, Mutukula, and Mpondwe. The DG also advised the public to “remain vigilant and maintain the highest level of adherence to the Standard Operating Procedures during the festive season.” (For comments on this story, call, text or whatsapp us on 0705579994 [whatsapp line], 0779411734, 0200900416 or email us







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