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Experts call for control of COVID-19 labs

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Health experts have called on the government to step up controls on labs conducting COVID-19 testing over inaccurate results attributed to some health facilities.

Prof. dr. Ponsiano Kaleebu, the executive director of the Uganda Virus Research Institute, said some testing facilities do not provide accurate information, posing a risk to the public.

Kaleebu wants the Ministry of Health to consider hiring allied health professionals such as lab technicians, radiographers and diagnostic medical ultrasounds to investigate. “We need to work together to provide good services to the public and I have suggested to the Department of Health to use the Allied Health Professionals Council (AHPC) to rein in lab operators,” Kaleebu said.

Inaccuracies in the COVID-19 results, he added, not only countermeasures to contain the pandemic, but also give a bad image to the country.

Kaleebu responded to concerns about COVID-19 false negative results seen among domestic workers seeking employment in the United Arab Emirates. This was Saturday during a press conference hosted by Twaweza about COVID-19 testing at Hotel Africana in Kampala. Laboratories are critical in identifying cases to break the transmission chain.

Andrew Nsawotebba, a lab specialist and operations manager at the Entebbe COVID-19 testing center, attributed some of the inaccuracies to health facilities that chose to use cheaper test kits, whose results may be compromised. He urged the Ministry of Health to regulate prices, especially on polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, to ensure quality.

A PCR test currently costs about sh250,000, but Nsawotebba says it can be reduced to sh180,000.

SOPS OBSERVE

A survey conducted by Twaweza in June and early July this year found that up to 90% of people suspected of contracting COVID-19 visit health facilities.

It was conducted in Kampala and two border districts of Kyotera and Tororo. According to the findings, more residents of Kampala (93%), Tororo (88%) and Kyotera (87%) are using disinfectants and washing their hands regularly to protect themselves from contracting COVID-19. Up to 92% of residents in the three neighborhoods also wear face masks outdoors. While residents were aware of social distancing as one of the SOPs designed to contain the spread of COVID-19, they did not. “Some actions are more understood than performed.

For example, while almost half (47%) of Kampala residents said people should keep at least two meters away from each other, less than a third of them (32%) say they actually do this. Likewise, fewer people report avoiding public gatherings and public transportation,” said Violet Alinda, Twaweza Uganda’s country leader. Alinda urged the Ministry of Health to use this data to raise public awareness of areas and practices that need improvement. dr. Susan Nabadda, the Department of Health’s laboratory and diagnostic services commissioner, assured the public of the government’s commitment to using test kits and vaccines.

“In our context, however, testing is not a viable self-protection measure. We don’t have the test kits or the resources to facilitate multiple regular tests for civilians. “We must therefore emphasize the realistic protective measures that can be taken by all Ugandans, regardless of their location or economic status. We welcome the widespread use of hand washing and masks and encourage citizens to continue using these important measures,” Nabadda said.

Uganda currently has 849 COVID-19 patients admitted to hospitals across the country. Results of COVID-19 testing conducted on July 17 confirmed 460 new cases. The cumulative confirmed cases are now 89,974. Those who have recovered from the disease are 66,080. To date, a total of 2,324 people have died from the deadly virus. Those who have been vaccinated are 1,418,721, out of a target of 22 million people needed to fully reopen the country.

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