Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on Friday tightened restrictions in the country following a worrying rise in Covid-19 infections and deaths.
On a day when the country recorded 42 Covid-related deaths and 1,000 new infections, the Ugandan leader stopped the movement of public and private transport vehicles. Only security, emergency and other essential service providers, including the police, firefighters and the military have been exempted.
The new move tightened restrictions imposed a week ago, when cross-district travel was banned, schools closed and other public gatherings restricted yet the deaths continued to rise.
At the Mulago National Referral Hospital in the capital Kampala, a ‘technical fault’ on Wednesday cut off oxygen supply to Covid-19 patients at the facility, leading to the death of several patients. The new highest death toll would arrive two days later when the country reported 42 deaths, raising the number of those killed by the virus to more than 400.
Lubango central hospital in Angola is under pressure due to the growing number of patients, reporting the possible collapse of the system. In the Angolan province of Huíla, local health authorities are concerned with the increase in deaths and cases of Covid-19, especially since the beginning of May. The province recorded 14 deaths in the last seven days, an average of two a day, in addition to an increase in hospitalizations for serious and critical cases at the central hospital in Lubango.
In view of the worsening situation and the fear of collapse in the health system, local health authorities are reiterating calls to the population to redouble preventive measures and announced the opening of four new Covid-19 patient care centers in the municipalities of Chibia , Kuvango, Jamba and Cacula and thus try to stop the wear and tear in the largest hospital in the region.
Uganda was the first country on the continent to confirm the presence of the B.1.617 variant first identified in India late last year.
This variant has now been reported in Kenya, Morocco, Algeria, South Africa, Botswana, Angola, DR Congo, Nigeria, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Image by Erik Cleves Kristensen – View of Luanda, Angola, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2048784
February 2021: We report here newly emerging A sub-lineages, A.23 and A.23.1, encoding replacements in the spike protein, nsp6, ORF8 and ORF9, with A.23.1 the major virus lineage now observed in Kampala.
Of concern, the recent Kampala and global A.23.1 virus sequences from December 2020-January 2021 now encoded 4 or 5 amino acid changes in the spike protein (now defining lineage A.23.1, see below) plus additional protein changes in nsp3, nsp6, ORF8 and ORF9 (Figure 3, 4). The P681R spike change encoded by all recent Kampala genomes since December 2020 adds a basic amino acid adjacent to the spike furin cleavage site. This same change has been shown in vitro to enhance the fusion activity of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, likely due to increased cleavage by the cellular furin protease (23); importantly, a similar change (P681H) is encoded by the recently emerging VOC B.1.1.7 that is now spreading globally across 75 countries as of 5 February 2021 (5) (24). There are also changes in the spike N-terminal domain (NTD), a known target of immune selection, observed in samples from Kampala A.23.1 lineage, including P26S and R102I plus 8 additional singleton changes (observed in only one genome,