COVID-19 variant from India detected in Uganda


Ugandan health officials wearing protective gear disinfect the Nakawa open-air market as part of the ...
Ugandan health officials wearing protective gear disinfect the Nakawa open-air market as part of the measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Nakawa division of Kampala, April 17, 2020.

In Summary

  • India's total COVID-19 cases passed 18 million on Thursday after another world record number of daily infections, as gravediggers worked around the clock to bury victims and hundreds more were cremated in makeshift pyres in parks and parking lots.

Uganda has detected the COVID-19 variant from India, igniting fears the East African nation could suffer a resurgence of cases just when its outbreak has waned, a senior health official said on Friday.

Also Read: 39 lorries carrying ‘unsafe’ maize from Uganda seized in Busia

“Yes, we have got one individual who has that variant,” Pontiano Kaleebu, head of the government-run Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) told Reuters on Friday.

The variant, he said, had been detected in recent days on a Ugandan who had returned from a visit to India. He did not immediately have further information.

Health Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Ainebyoona told Reuters the country’s coronavirus task-force would discuss the situation on Friday.

So far, Uganda, like many African countries, has experienced a relatively mild COVID-19 outbreak.

But concerns it could be vulnerable to contagion from the Indian variant are underscored by its large Indian community and strong relationship between the two countries as India is a major exporter to Uganda.

As of Tuesday, Uganda had reported 41,797 infections and 342 deaths, health ministry data showed.

On Thursday, the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention warned India’s intense outbreak was a reminder that Africa must stay vigilant.

The head of the health agency John Nkengasong said the African Union will convene a meeting of African health ministers on May 8 to “put everybody on alert”.

India reported more than 379,000 new coronavirus cases and 3,645 new deaths on Thursday alone.

It was the highest number of deaths reported in a single day in the world’s second most populous country since the start of the pandemic.

Romania has also reported its first case of the coronavirus variant that was first identified in India.

The case was diagnosed in a 26-year-old patient who arrived in Romania roughly a month ago and presented light symptoms.

The ministry said its national public health institute said the identified mutation was not the more infectious one believed to have generated the sharp rise in cases in India.

Four days ago, the first case of the Indian variant of COVID-19 was confirmed in Switzerland.

The Federal Office for Public Health (BAG) made the announcement as other countries introduced travel bans to contain its spread.

The case involved a passenger who arrived in Switzerland via a transit airport and not directly from India, which has been hit hard by a massive wave of infections in recent days, the BAG said on Twitter.

The test took place at the end of March, BAG told Reuters on Sunday, adding the person entered Switzerland via a European country.

BAG said consultations were now underway on whether to add India to its list of high-risk countries, from where people must immediately go into quarantine upon arrival in Switzerland.

“The reason for this is the rapid spread of the variant in the country,” a spokesman said, referring to India, adding there was currently no accurate information on how infectious or how much more dangerous the new variant was.

Italy on Sunday joined other countries by imposing restrictions on travel from India to avert the spread of the variant.

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