Home / 2020 / October / 24

Daily Archives: October 24, 2020

Uganda Cuts Cost of COVID Test From $65 to $50

KAMPALA, UGANDA – Uganda has reduced the cost of a COVID-19 test from $65 to $50, a move welcomed by truck drivers in the East African region. Business had been brought to a standstill at the border between Kenya and Uganda, with trucks backed up over 60 kilometers due to the high cost of COVID-19 testing.

In August, Uganda instituted a cost-recovery fee of $65 for COVID-19 testing for some categories of individuals and organizations.

The move caused an uproar, especially among truck drivers transporting goods within the East African region, since Uganda is a major transit route for countries such as Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania, South Sudan and Kenya.

In a statement issued Saturday, Uganda’s Health Ministry explained the fee cut, saying that the cost of transporting laboratory testing kits and other supplies from the manufacturer to Uganda has been reduced with resumption of international flights.

Dr. Diana Atwine, the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Health, explained to VOA how the cost for tests came down.

“The basis for the cost was actually the cost incurred while procuring and transportation and all those logistical costs, and therefore it was very expensive. But now, the airport opened. But also remember that at the beginning, few companies that were manufacturing. But over time, we have seen more companies come on board, therefore the tests are easily available and therefore the cost even has come down,” Atwine said.

Last week, the East African Business Council called for an end to mandatory testing of truck drivers within the East African region. In a statement, the council argued that this would ease congestion, which is stifling cross-border trade and reducing trade volumes, just when the region is struggling to recover from the pandemic.

Ayebare Kenneth, the chairman of the Cargo Consolidators Association, told VOA that the cost cut is a welcome move, considering that countries such as Kenya are carrying out free testing while Rwanda has been charging $50.

“You see, $15 (the amount of the reduction) might look small, but when the containers are many…. Every driver I pay $15 extra, it’s a lot of money. Because I pay them road toll, every container about $50. So, plus $65, I am going to around $115. And that reduction might seem small, but then, for us it’s big, according to continuous business we are doing.” Kenneth said.

With long lines and almost a week of waiting, especially at the Busia and Malaba crossings, as truck drivers waited for free COVID-19 testing by Kenya, those who had to test on the Ugandan side of the border allegedly started paying bribes to brokers.

The Health Ministry says, even though they have not gathered any evidence, they have found some forged COVID-19 test results.

“We are working with Kenyan government to ensure that we stamp out any area of the fraud. So, we cannot have someone coming, in claiming that these are tests done in Uganda and we are not able to detect,” Atwine said. He added that East African countries are working on a system that they can all use so that the results are uploaded to minimize fraud and other activities.

Source: Voice of America

US Sets New Daily Record for Coronavirus Infections

The United States has set a daily record for coronavirus cases as a new surge of the virus raises fears for a further increase during the cold fall and winter months.

According to Johns Hopkins University, at least 83,757 cases were reported across the U.S. On Friday, breaking a single-day record set July 16 by more than 6,000 cases.

With surges in northern Rocky Mountain states and the upper Midwest, the U.S. continued to lead the world Saturday in coronavirus infections, with nearly 8.5 million, and in COVID-19 deaths, with more than 224,000, according to Johns Hopkins.

A new estimate by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation Friday said the U.S. death toll from COVID-19 could surpass a half-million by February unless nearly all Americans wear face masks.

It said the number of possible deaths could drop by 130,000 if 95% of Americans would wear face coverings.

The U.S. surge is similar to widespread spikes in Europe, where Paris, Rome and other large cities are imposing increasingly stringent measures to contain the spread of the virus.

The European Union’s disease control agency, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, has joined the World Health Organization to sound the alarm over a new surge of the COVID-19 virus across the continent, as the WHO warned that the infection is rising exponentially.

ECDC Director Andrea Ammon said Europe is facing a major threat to public health and a “highly concerning epidemiological situation.”

All EU countries except Cyprus, Estonia, Finland and Greece fell into a “serious concern” category, as did Britain, the agency said.

France surpassed 1 million confirmed coronavirus cases on Friday, registering a record 42,032 cases in 24 hours. France became the second Western European country after Spain and the seventh country worldwide to pass that milestone, after the U.S., India, Brazil, Russia, Argentina and Spain.

As of Saturday, 10 of Spain’s 17 regions had asked the central government to declare a state of emergency to allow them to curtail the movement of people to contain the resurgent epidemic. The country reported 1,046,132 new cases on Friday, the highest number in Western Europe, as the death toll there approaches 38,000.

Poland is also seeing a sharp increase in infections, with 13,628 new cases reported Saturday. Polish President Andrzej Duda is among those who have tested positive, officials announced Saturday, as the country imposed more lockdown measures Saturday including a two-week closure of bars and restaurants and students beyond third grade moving to distance learning.

As coronavirus infections in Belgium continue to reach record highs, authorities ordered the closure of the country’s cultural facilities on Saturday and announced a longer curfew beginning Monday. Brussels, home to the European Union and NATO, is among the country’s hardest-hit regions. Belgium has one of the world’s highest per capita fatality rates, with more than 10,600 total deaths.

Germany’s death toll passed 10,000, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Saturday, as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the country increased by 14,714 to 418,005.

Russia reported 16,521 new cases of infection with the coronavirus on Saturday after hitting a record high of over 17,300 on Friday.

In Greece, authorities imposed a nightly curfew Saturday in the Athens area and in other regions of the country with high infection rates and made it mandatory to wear face masks indoors and outdoors. The country has so far avoided the worst of the virus, reporting a relatively low 29,000 total cases and 559 deaths.

Hundreds of demonstrators in Naples, Italy, protested late Friday against a new regional curfew. Demonstrators threw smoke bombs and police responded with tear gas. Italy reached a new daily high Friday of nearly 20,000 coronavirus cases.

Researchers around the world are racing to develop a safe and effective vaccine against COVID-19, which has killed more than 1.1 million globally and sickened more than 42 million.

Source: Voice of America