Ministry of Health, please don’t admit asymptomatic coronavirus infected persons 

Ministry of Health PS Dr Diana Atwine [in white] speaking during discharge of Covid-19 recovered people last month. File photo.

By Odongo Patrick Lango

Kampala—4, June 2020: In my language —   Leb-Lango —   we have a saying, “ociki odipo adwiro”. The English equivalent is, “more haste, less speed”. The World Health Organization [WHO] and Health Authorities around the World have had to make high pressure decisions amidst the fast growing coronavirus global pandemic. In hindsight, as we emerge bleary-eyed from the lockdown, we’re finding out that we made many unforced and costly errors.

For example, in Uganda, we’re implementing a test-track-admit policy irrespective of the clinical state of the cases. You test positive, you’re admitted. This is despite the fact that reports from Sweden  —  that never closed down borders, primary schools, restaurants, or businesses  —  showed that 99.998% of all their people under 60 have survived and their hospitals were never overburdened. Take note that the percentage of Ugandans 65 years old and older is a minuscule 1.94 percent.

Mandatory admission of all coronavirus infected persons, I believe, is the wrong course of action.

Videos have started circulating on social media showing “coronavirus patients” having a blast in their hospital admission wards. In one video, allegedly from neighbouring Kenya, the “patients” clad in hospital gowns and face masks are seen dancing and joined by a full body suited health workers to Jamaican Reggae music. In another viral video, allegedly taken from Masaka Hospital, the “patients” had converted hospital waste buckets into a drum and others are dancing to traditional Buganda music.

Note that I put coronavirus patients in quotation marks. The fact is that over 80 percent of persons infected with Covid-19 are asymptomatic and recover with no medical intervention. These infected persons simply need to be quarantined to stem the spread of infections instead of crowding them into the limited hospital spaces that are putting healthcare workers at risk of infection.

Uganda has already registered seven infections of frontline healthcare workers and if the trend of unwarranted admission of asymptomatic cases continues, this number will keep on rising —   putting further strain on an already stretched healthcare system.

The problem is that many countries — Uganda included — took and continue to take WHO advice without introspection and taking into consideration contextual issues. The other illnesses that have been afflicting Ugandans for ages have not gone on holidays. We simply cannot let asymptomatic coronavirus infected persons take away precious hospital resources — including staff time, from these other more deadly diseases: HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, Malaria, Pneumonia, Anaemia, etc.

The Guardian Newspaper in the UK and the online US publication, Real Clear Politics have separately published a couple of robust blockbuster investigative articles that have punched holes in the “scientific studies” published in The Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine that have been the basis of the lockdown measures worldwide.

The investigations, that you can read for yourself online, shows that the epidemiological projections — the basis for the lockdown measures — was both deeply flawed, but was unnecessarily alarmist. Evidence from Sweden — where no lockdown measures were implemented — show that countries that had strict lockdown didn’t have any advantage in terms of deaths and infections over countries where there were no lockdown restrictions. Therefore, countries need to be more cautious about swallowing the WHO orthodoxy.

What has proven effective in countries like New Zealand and Australia is the implementation of physical distancing measures, wide use of hand sanitizers, wearing face masks, and tracking and quarantining of asymptomatic infected persons (not patients please).

We need to avoid knee-jerk decisions because of group thinking and panicky decisions. That way, we shall avoid saddling our healthcare system with people who shouldn’t be in hospital.

The author supports NRM and hails from Minakulu, Oyam district

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