By AWORI ESTHER LUCY
KAMPALA-SHIFTMEDIA- Uganda risks facing isolation from the entire continent due to reports of the latest Indian variant B.1.617.
The new coronavirus strain that has caused mayhem in India leaving thousands dead is in Uganda, health officials have revealed.
The Africa Center for Disease Control has cautioned African states to avoid complacency.
Uganda is the first African nation to have this strain, though reports indicate that neighboring Kenya also registered similar cases earlier.
Kenya said the cases of the new strain were reported after the arrival of nationals from India before the ban on flights from India.
Uganda so far has registered 41,797 infections and 342 deaths, though the reports of the new variant may worsen the situation.
How dangerous is the Indian variant?
According to The World Health Organization (WHO), the B.1.617 was first identified in India last December, although an earlier version was spotted in October 2020.
It has described it as a “variant of interest”. B.1.617 contains two notable mutations – formally known as E484Q and L452R. This has led to it sometimes being dubbed the “double mutant” strain.
Experts have still not determined if the strain is more lethal than existing ones.
Health Minister Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng has cautioned Ugandans to observe the set Ministry of Health SOPs saying the B.1.617 is lethal.
Last week Uganda banned all flights from India following the spike in cases of the new variant and reports of the strain in Uganda.
The Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) said the strain was discovered in travelers returning from India.
Unconfirmed reports indicated that three students of Agha Khan who had just returned from India tested positive, prompting the shutting down of the school.
According to health officials, Uganda has so far five different types of Covid 19 variants including the deadly South African variant known as B.1.351.
The most worrying aspect is the fear that the B.1.1.7 variant that was first detected in the United Kingdom in September 2020 is present in Kenya.
Much as it is not the government’s plans to lockdown again, we have received closed-circuit reports from highly placed sources that this may not be avoided once the cases soar.
The COVID 19 National Task Force will hold a meeting on Friday (May 8 2021) to discuss and chat a way forward regarding curbing the spread of the new deadly variant.
“Everybody has seen what is happening in India. We wouldn’t like to wait to witness a similar scenario here, we may be forced to lockdown again to curb on the spread,” said a minister who sits in the National Taskforce.
The Covid 19 Task Force member who preferred not to be named said their decisions, as a team had been submitted to His Excellency the President to announce.
President Museveni who swears in for his new sixth term on May 12 is expected to address the nation on new measures shortly after swearing according to sources.
Similarly, the African Union will convene a meeting of African health ministers on May 8 to “put everybody on alert”.
Additional reporting by Patrick Jaramogi