Uganda confirms first coronavirus case and seals off borders

A 36-year-old man who arrived into the country from Dubai on Saturday is the first confirmed positive case of the Covid-19 coronavirus in Uganda, the ministry of health said.

“The confirmed case is a 36-year-old Ugandan male who arrived from Dubai at 2:00 am today, Saturday 21 March 2020 aboard Ethiopian airlines. He presented with symptoms of high fever and poor appetite,” Jane Aceng, the health minister, said on Saturday evening.

“During the screening process at the airport, his temperature was 38.7°C. This prompted the health teams to isolate him at the airport for further follow-up. Subsequent temperatures taken at intervals of 30 minutes and one hour remained the same,” she said.

Ms Aceng said a nasal swab from the patient was taken at Entebbe Grade B hospital and later tested positive for the Covid-19 coronavirus.

The confirmed case travelled from Entebbe to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday, 17 March, for business purposes while “in good health,” according to the health ministry. The incubation period for the Covid-19 coronavirus ranges from 1-14 days, with the average being five days, according to the World Health Organisation.

“The passenger manifest [of the plane] has been retrieved and all contacts are known as we are in possession of the passports of all the travellers that came on that plane,” said Ms Aceng.

The minister advised the public to “remain calm and vigilant” and to report any suspected coronavirus cases on 0800203033 and 0800100066, both toll-free numbers.

Uganda becomes the latest country in East Africa to confirm infections of the novel coronavirus. Kenya, Tanzania, and Rwanda have all announced positive cases.

Government closes borders

Meanwhile, the government has increased border restrictions to limit the spread of the coronavirus, including the closure of air borders at midnight on Monday, 23 March. The new restrictions will be in force for 32 days from Wednesday, which means they will run for as long as the measures announced that day.

“No passenger planes will be allowed to land in Uganda or leave,” President Museveni said in a tweet on Saturday evening. “Only cargo planes and their crew members will be allowed in the country.”

The president added that all human movement into or out of Uganda at the different border points is prohibited from noon on Sunday, 22 March. The only exceptions are “drivers and accompanying crews, not exceeding 3 persons, for cargo transport vehicles ─ trailers, lorries and other cargo vehicles.”

In addition, “no buses, mini-buses, salon cars or boda-bodas will be allowed in the country.” However, Mr Museveni hinted at a “health response plan” to the pandemic by the East African Community that is set to regulate human movement during the outbreak.

The president said he will address the nation to announce the new measures at 16:00 on Sunday.