The government has decided to carry out Genome sequencing on all COVID-19 tests of persons entering the country. This is in relation to the Omicron COVID-19 variant that was detected in South Africa early last month.
The variant is believed to be more virulent due to the 32 mutations that it has. So far, it has been detected in; Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Lesotho, Namibia, Angola, Zambia; and in West Africa in Nigeria and Ghana. The variant has also been detected in Hong Kong, Netherlands, Thailand, Israel, the U.K, Czech Republic, Italy, Belgium, Germany and the U.S.
Genome sequencing refers to the process of determining the genetic material of an organism. It is used to detect COVID-19 variants.
As a means to safeguard against the importation and spread of the COVID-19 variant, the health ministry has decided to carry out sequencing on all COVID-19 tests that will be carried out at points of entry.
The minister of health, Dr Jane Ruth Aceng says the variant has not yet been detected in Uganda.
She however adds that as a measure to ensure early detection of the variant, genome sequencing will be carried out on all COVID-19 positive tests of travelers entering the country by land or air.
Data from recent tests carried out on travelers at Entebbe shows that 6 cases out of a hundred of tests carried out are positive.
She said the government can easily track these cases incases they are detected to have the Omicron Variant.
Persons detected with the Omicron variant will be placed under home-based care if they don’t have symptoms. The sick will be placed at designated treatment facilities. On the seventh day, they will undergo a second PCR test to detect the presence of the virus.
In addition to this, contact tracing will be carried out within communities and all COVID-19 positive cases will also undergo genomic sequencing.
The Uganda Virus Research Institute has been carrying out Genome Sequencing periodically. However, due to the high cost of testing, of over USD 200 per test, sequencing has been taking place on a few samples especially those picked in areas with high infection rates like Kampala.
Scientists who sit on the Ministerial COVID-19 Scientific Committee say that there’s no need to introduce tough measures on persons travelling from South Africa.
Dr Misaki Wayengera, the chairman of the ministerial Scientific COVID-19 task force says the decision not to ban travellers from South Africa is an informed one.
Apart from this, no other measures have been introduced.
Old measures like testing all travelers on arrival and letting them go will remain the same.
Persons arriving, even those from countries where the Omicron Variant has been detected will be allowed to go home or to their destinations and await their results by email or Watsapp.
The minister however urged all travelers to be sincere and offer the right information so as to safeguard the communities they come from.
According to Aceng, at least two people out of the six detected positive cases at Entebbe Airport offer false information. She says persons who give false information will be found using their passport and National Identification information.
While the World Health Organisation is still carrying out studies to better understand the Omicron, the variant is believed to be the driver behind the high number of COVID-19 cases being reported.
Reports from the Southern Africa country show that since November when the variant was forts detected, the country has reported a 311 percent increase in new cases.