“There are illegal entrants who keep coming into the country from South Sudan. We have, however, managed to quarantine them to shield the refugees that are already here,” Kagirita said, adding that the health ministry continues to sensitise them to reduce their movements.
By Cecilia Okoth
Fifty-one refugees are among Uganda's 234 community cases that tested positive for the coronavirus.
The refugees, according to Aket Kagirita, the COVID-19 deputy incident commander at the health ministry, are from Agojo, Boroli, Maaji, Mungula, Nyumanzi and Pagirinya refugee settlements in Adjumani district.
"There are illegal entrants who keep coming into the country from South Sudan. We have, however, managed to quarantine them to shield the refugees that are already here," Kagirita said, adding that the health ministry continues to sensitise them to reduce their movements.
Kagirita said the 51 refugees are being treated in Arua and Kampala.
While giving an update on COVID-19 response in Uganda on Saturday evening, health minister Dr Jane Ruth Aceng said Uganda is now in the third phase of COVID-19 infections. This is where a country experiences a steady rise in the number of locally transmitted cases.
As of Saturday last week, Uganda had registered local transmissions in 33 districts with Amuru and Kyotera districts registering the highest number. This, she said, is accompanied with emergence of cases among refugees (51), frontline responders including health workers (27), UPDF soldiers (8), Police officers (2) and immigration officers (2).
Following the first health worker who tested positive at Lira Regional Referral Hospital, a team of experts whose specialisation is in infection, prevention nd control were deployed at the various isolation facilities to assess and investigate the possible cause of infection.
"It is imperative that we continue to protect front-line health workers adequately and offer them optimal care if infected," Dr Aceng said.
Between June 3, and 4, this year, a batch of 50 samples from within Kampala area was analysed in Makerere University laboratory and yielded results that were declared to be positive.
The minister, however, also clarified that nine out of the 50 samples tested were falsely declared as positive.
"The results were communicated to the respective individuals as part of infection prevention and control and the necessary measures undertaken.
However, as part of routine quality assurance procedures, some samples were sent to the Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) for re-testing. There was discordance in some of the samples in this batch. This then required the entire batch to be retested," Aceng explained.
It was at this point that the minister said when the batch was retested, some of the previously confirmed positive cases, (9) were found to be negative and the individuals were informed accordingly.
"Errors in handling test samples are not uncommon in laboratory management. That is why multiple tests are done and there is provision for second and third parties to do confirmatory tests on the same sample if the need arises," Aceng said.
These errors leading to false results, the minister explained can be classified as those that occur before analysis which may arise during sample collection, packing, shipping and opening; those that occur during sample analysis which is the process of conducting the test and errors after analysis that is during reading results, analysing results, interpretation, decoding or making the right conclusions regarding the results.
Aceng, however, commended Makerere University for the professionalism they exhibited in handling their duties.
Whereas testing for COVID-19 was previously exclusively carried out at the UVRI, Makerere University's department of microbiology and immunology was among the nine laboratories that were assessed and accredited to support testing.
The other laboratories include the Central Public Health Laboratory, Infectious disease research collaboration in Tororo, Joint Clinical Research Centre laboratory, UVRI plague laboratory in Arua, Muni University laboratory in Arua, Gulu University laboratory, Rakai Health Sciences in Rakai and Fort Portal Regional Referral Hospital.
Discrepancies in results
Explaining the discrepancies in results between the Government and the World Health Organisation (WHO), the ministry formally communicated to the international health body to rectify what she called errors.
"We have noted that WHO continues to report statistics different from the Government's position. MOH formally communicated to WHO to rectify this error and this will be reflected in their reports as soon as it's worked on," she said.
The discrepancies in results came about after President Yoweri Museveni on May 20, issued a directive that foreign truck drivers who test positive must not be allowed into the country and that their numbers should not be captured as part of Uganda's statistics since they were in transit.