Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni has prevailed against much opposition. Although the measure was unpopular, he has since nevertheless imposed a strict curfew on two districts in the center of the East African nation. The two districts are considered the center of the recent Ebola outbreak in the country.
The lockdown bans public and private transport as well as sporting events and religious services for the next three weeks. Only motorcycles manned by one person will be allowed to travel in the central Ugandan districts of Mubende and Kasanda. The head of state justified his about-turn by saying that "special measures" were needed to contain the spread of the deadly Ebola virus.
The number of fatalities has now risen to 24, and more than 60 cases of infection are currently known - this shows how high the mortality rate of the disease is. Without treatment, the death rate among infected people is over 50 percent. The AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) is now urging the world to be more vigilant in light of the situation in Uganda.
"The world must mobilize to ensure that Uganda and neighboring countries mount a robust response to contain and stop this disease outbreak," said the head of AHF's office in Uganda's capital, Kampala, Penninah Iutung. "Covid-19 showed that Africa cannot rely on northern hemisphere support during health crises, and this Ebola outbreak is no different."
Five caregivers are among those who have died in Uganda, and another 10 have become infected. About 1500 people who came into contact with infected people have been identified so far - one patient died in the capital Kampala, about 150 kilometers to the east.
Citizens there have been called upon to exercise increased vigilance. Infectious cases are now known from five Ugandan districts. In Mubende, an Ebola case has also been reported at an elementary school. However, a closure of schools has been ruled out so far.
Uganda's neighboring countries of Tanzania, Rwanda, Kenya and South Sudan have stepped up surveillance at their borders and put their health services on alert. Experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the African and U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have been sent to the East African nation to help contain the situation. Washington has not banned the entry of Ugandans (about 140 travelers a day), at least so far, though health checks have been stepped up at several airports.
Vaccines, which are still in the testing phase, are also to be sent to Uganda as soon as possible. Several vaccines that were used very successfully in the largest Ebola epidemic to date in West Africa have proven ineffective against the variant of Ebola that is rampant in Uganda, the "Sudan virus." However, a vaccine developed by the U.S. institute Sabin proved effective in animal trials. Around 10,000 doses of this vaccine are now to be tested further in Uganda. However, the government in Kampala still has to give the go-ahead for this.
Drugs to treat the viral disease, such as Remdesivir, which has already been successfully used against Covid, and a preparation called MBP134, are also to be sent to Uganda from the USA in the coming weeks. Used together, 80 percent of animals infected with the Sudan virus survived their illness.
The latest Ebola outbreak is the fifth known in Uganda. An epidemic with the Zaire variant killed more than 200 people in 2000. The deadliest epidemic to date raged between 2014 and 2016 in the West African nations of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
At that time, more than 11,000 people died. Ebola is considered one of the deadliest infectious diseases: Infected people usually die in agony from internal bleeding. Unlike Corona, the virus is not transmitted through the air, but only through contact with bodily fluids. According to health experts, Uganda is much better prepared for the Ebola outbreak than West African countries were eight years ago.
The country has modern laboratories that can identify the virus and a relatively good healthcare system. However, as everywhere in Africa, habits and beliefs of the population cause problems for the disease fighters: such as the extensive washing of deceased persons, who are particularly infectious at this stage.
Visiting healers also poses problems for Uganda: patients often travel long distances to see one of the traditional medical practitioners. President Museveni has now responded by imposing a general ban on healers. The police are also to arrest infected people who do not isolate themselves voluntarily.