Following a sharp rise in Covid-19 cases country wide, Parliament has called on government to swiftly implement mass testing for Covid-19, to avoid a more disastrous phase as has been observed in other countries.
Legislators said the fact that the infection rate is rising among health workers who are the foot soldiers in the fight, calls for urgent response on the side of government to ensure that every Ugandan is screened.
“The Minister of Health has been quoted for having stated that even the medical workers are getting scared because there is a general increase in infection among themselves,” said hon. Cecilia Ogwal (FDC, Dokolo).
Ogwal who raised the matter during plenary on Thursday 24, September 2020 said that much as she was aware of how costly the Covid-19 testing kits are, the stakes are so high that cheaper mechanisms of testing should be explored so as to reach all Ugandans.
“In view of the fact that people upcountry are not taking the standard operating procedures seriously, and in view of the rising infections and death rate resulting from Covid-19, I am making an appeal that government must come up with a cheap mechanism for mass testing of Covid-19,” said Ogwal.
She said she was afraid Uganda may be obscure about the actual image of the Covid-19 burden as testing has been limited to just a small sample of contacts of Covid-19 cases.
“If we do not test everyone, we will never be able to record the exact picture of people affected because they are using a small sample of people who are associated with Covid-19 cases, yet there could be so many who are infected but have not been reached,” Ogwal said.
MPs from border districts said that subjecting citizens to pay for the Covid-19 test has proved unrealistic considering that they have been under lockdown for about six months. Even truck drivers are finding it hard to pay for the test, according to the Tororo County South MP, Fredrick Angura.
“The truck drivers based at Malaba border are challenged, they earn about Shs 70,000 a day but they are mandated to pay for a test said to cost about Shs 200,000 if they are to keep in business,” said Angura.
The Minister of State for Finance (Planning), David Bahati, told Parliament that even if government had all financial resources required for mass testing, there is currently a scarcity of testing kits and reagents on the world market.
“The National Covid-19 Task Force has discussed the possibility of mass testing testing, but to say that we are going to test every Ugandan for Covid-19 would be untrue, because we would not get all the required test kits as the world is stretched,” said Bahati.
Busia Municipality MP, Geoffrey Macho, however, did not take Bahati’s justification saying that Kenyan government has been able to secure a free test for its citizens at the Busia border.
“Every Kenyan at the Busia border is given a free Covid-19 test, but we the Ugandan citizens have been conditioned to pay for the test which most ordinary Ugandans cannot afford,” said Macho.