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Mulago to handle VIPs only



To control the surge in the number of people seeking to be screened for potential exposure to the coronavirus, Mulago national referral hospital has temporarily closed its Covid-19 sample collection centre.

The hospital insists it’s largely a treatment and isolation center.

“Mulago hospital is a treatment and isolation center. We don’t want patients moving in and meeting people dropping samples. It’s only VIPs, like MPs and ministers allowed to go there for sample collection since their number is not big,” Emmanuel Ainebyoona, the ministry of Health senior public relations officer, said in a weekend interview.

Interviewed at the weekend, Rosemary Byanyima, the deputy executive director of Mulago hospital, said the Covid-19 sample collection centre at the referral hospital was closed on Tuesday, August 18. She said all suspected cases and especially people who wanted to travel have been referred to Kiswa health center in Bugolobi and Makerere University for screening.

“Many people were coming at Mulago hospital, yet we are now concentrating on (Covid-19) case management,” she said.

As of Monday, August 24, Uganda had a total of 2,263 Covid-19 cases, 1,226 recoveries and 20 deaths. Ainebyoona said Mulago hospital’s Covid-19 collection centre has moved to Kiswa health centre in Bugolobi.

“There is a criterion at Kiswa health centre. Not all people should go there…If you don’t have signs and symptoms of Covid-19, or if you are not going to travel, don’t go there,” Ainebyoona said, adding that the ministry is working towards expanding sample collection centres.

He said many people with persistent symptoms of Covid-19 and who wanted to be tested, were usually referred to Mulago hospital to get their samples withdrawn and taken to different testing laboratories.

“The testing laboratories include National Central Public Health Laboratory (CPHL), Makerere University Microbiology and Immunology Laboratory, Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) and other laboratories at the border points of Malaba and Mutukula and Adjumani hospital,” Ainebyoona said.

He said the ministry also accredited four private laboratories to test for Covid-19 at an individual’s cost to expand on the services. These are Medipal International hospital, MBN laboratories at Nakasero, Lancet Laboratories and Makerere University College of Health Sciences (Mulago).

Ainebyoona said through the ministry’s surveillance system, government picks samples of contacts of Covid-19 suspected cases from their homes. He said there is also a planned rapid assessment that will occur in greater Kampala Metropolitan, Wakiso and Mukono districts like what happened in other high-risk districts.

“We shall be selecting a number of people scattered across in these districts and test them. We shall also do risk basic testing; for example, if premise X has a case, then we test all the occupants and their contacts there,” he says.

Ainebyoona said it takes only 48 hours to know the results.

“Sometimes when the results delay, it is due to the running out of reagents or sometimes traffic jam affects movements of medical officers from sample collection centers to testing laboratories,” he said.

The ministry also has several psychotherapy teams that counsel people who are tested and found positive with Covid-19. The same team also visits different quarantine areas and hotels to counsel people from abroad.

The ministry issued a statement on Monday listing all testing centres within Kampala and Wakiso. They include Kiswa Health Centre IV Bugolobi, Kisenyi Health Centre IV, Kibuli hospital, Kawaala Health Centre IV, Kitebi Health Centre IV, Nsambya hospital, Kira Health Centre IV, Kasangati Health IV and International hospital Kampala.

Tests are free for all symptomatic cases in government facilities.

WHO projection

According to the World Health Organisation chief, the coronavirus disease pandemic could last for another two years. 

Speaking last Friday, director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus compared the virus to the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic which took “two years to stop.”

The WHO has always been cautious about giving an estimate on how quickly the pandemic can be dealt with while there is no proven vaccine.
But on Friday, Tedros said that globalisation allowed the virus to spread quicker than the Spanish flu did in 1918. He added that the world now has the technology to stop it, which wasn’t around 102 years ago.

“And in our situation now with more technology, and of course with more connectiveness, the virus has a better chance of spreading; it can move fast because we are more connected now,” he told a briefing in Geneva.

“But at the same time, we have also the technology to stop it and the knowledge to stop it.
“We hope to finish this pandemic [in] less than two years, especially if we can pool our efforts.”

Tedros urged countries to engage in “national unity” and “global solidarity”.

“That is really key with utilising the available tools to the maximum and hoping that we can have additional tools like a vaccine,” he added.

Uganda Health minister Jane Ruth Aceng

WHO’s emergencies chief Dr Michael Ryan noted the 1918 pandemic hit the globe in three distinct waves; the second wave, which began during the fall of 1918, was the most devastating.

“This virus is not displaying a similar wave-like pattern,” he said.
“When the virus is not under control, it jumps straight back up.”

Ryan added that while pandemic viruses often settle into a seasonal pattern, that didn’t appear to be the case for the Covid-19. More than 22.81 million people have been reported to be infected by the coronavirus globally since it was first identified in China last year and 793,382 have died, according to a Reuters tally.

The United States leads the world with 5.6 million confirmed cases and more than 174,000 deaths. Meanwhile, Britain’s coronavirus outbreak shrank again as the average number of people testing positive for the deadly disease dropped to below 1,000 for the first time in a week.

Doctors say the rise in cases is largely down to younger people becoming infected. Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation said the Balkans region is a “hotspot” for Covid-19 amid mounting speculation that Croatia could be added to the UK’s quarantine travel list.

The WHO said the Balkans have been a “concern of ours since early June” because of an increase in case numbers as it urged the region to impose additional measures to “nip transmission in the bud”.

Dr Catherine Smallwood told a WHO press conference: “The situation in the Balkans has been a concern of ours since early June when we started to see cases increase and it’s been very much a sub-regional hotspot over the summer period.”

This comes as France, Spain and Germany all reported their highest cases of coronavirus in months.  The new figures have been raising concerns about a second wave that could be hitting the continent.

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Terego headteacher arrested over defiling own daughter




The headteacher of Yole primary school in Tergo district, northern Uganda has been arrested on allegations of defiling and battering his own daughter. 

Tom Amayo was arrested on Tuesday by officers from Katrini police post following a tip-off by the victim’s uncles where she had sought refuge. 

According to preliminary police findings, the suspect committed the offence several times at his residence in the staff quarters where has been living with the victim. Agnes Anyu, the Terego district police commander, says that they have charged the suspect rape, defilement and torture.

Geoffrey Aziz, a member of Yole primary school management committee told URN that they are in the process of holding an emergency meeting following the arrest of the headteacher to forge away forward to allow the school to run normally. 

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It’s time for the World Bank to scrap its Doing Business rankings | Coronavirus pandemic News




On March 29, at a virtual meeting hosted by the London School of Economics before the 2021 World Bank-IMF Spring Meetings, World Bank President David Malpass called for long-term, integrated strategies that emphasise “green, inclusive and resilient development” to tackle what he calls the COVID-19 “pandemic of inequality”. Underlining the importance of helping countries improve their readiness for future pandemics through policies supporting sustainable development, he urged policymakers to avoid repeating the “errors of the past”.

World Bank representatives reiterated the same discourse at the Spring Meetings and last week’s UN Financing for Development Forum. Yet, one of the Bank’s most powerful policy advice tools, the Doing Business rankings, continues to produce skewed policy prescriptions that obstruct developing countries’ pandemic recovery efforts and constrain their resilience to future crises.

For 17 years, political leaders and policymakers around the world have peered anxiously over the Bank’s annual Doing Business report. The Bank’s flagship publication ranks 190 economies on how easy and cheap it is for companies to do business there. The fewer regulations, the higher a country scores on the Doing Business index, increasing its chances of attracting foreign investment. According to the Bank, this leads to economic growth with trickle-down benefits to the population.

The report was launched in 2004 as the new face of the much-criticised Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs), which were rooted in the idea that deregulation and privatisation encourage investment and boosts development and economic growth. There is now ample evidence of the negative consequences of SAPs, which were widely implemented through World Bank and International Monetary Fund loans in the 1980s and 90s. Although some of the Bank’s loan conditionalities have evolved with time, the same ideological preferences continue to be promoted under the Doing Business rankings to this day.

With the Doing Business index, the Bank made itself both the referee and the rule maker of its global benchmarking and investor-friendly policy reforms exercise. Governments that want to signal to the world that they are open for international business race each other to cut red tape and win a place on the Bank’s “top ten improvers” list. But this regulatory race to the bottom erodes worker and environmental protections in the meantime. The reports’ recommendations have concrete effects on shaping policy in developing countries.

Policies rewarded in the rankings include cutting corporate income taxes and contributions to employees’ retirement schemes in India; reducing social tax rates in Hungary and Kazakhstan, and completely abolishing social security contributions in Georgia.

Meanwhile, the Doing Business report discourages welfare and environmental protection. Bolivia and Trinidad and Tobago got a lower mark for raising social security contribution rates for employers, while Guatemala increased its score by relaxing requirements for environmental impact assessments and Vietnam gained points for scrapping environmental protection fees. Some countries, such as India and Indonesia, design national reforms with the sole intention of climbing up the rankings. Rwanda has an entire ministry devoted to this purpose.

India’s new laws to deregulate agricultural markets show how far governments can go to protect private investors’ interests and follow the World Bank’s policy prescriptions. Legal reforms which will affect 800 million Indians whose livelihoods depend on farming passed with no public debate. The largest ever farmer protests in response to it were met with paramilitary violence, arbitrary arrests and internet shutdowns.

The 2020 enactment of the Omnibus Law in Indonesia is another example of a package of reforms explicitly designed to help a country climb on the Doing Business ranking. Though the bill faced massive pushback from labour unions and social movements for its effects on workers’ rights and the environment, it received the World Bank’s unconditional endorsement.

A 2019 Cambridge University study clearly illustrated the outsized influence the Doing Business rankings have on investors. In an experiment, the researchers provided a group of investors with various economic and political indicators for a set of countries. They found that even when most other indicators looked positive, a low ranking on the Doing Business index caused investors to refrain from investing in a country. This finding begs the question: should the World Bank promote a deregulation blueprint that disproportionately serves firms with headquarters in the rich countries that govern it, at the expense of worker rights and climate and ecological sustainability in many developing countries?

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, in her push for increasing corporate taxation, recently stated that competitiveness “is about making sure that governments have stable tax systems that raise sufficient revenue to invest in essential public goods and respond to crises”. And yet this is exactly what the World Bank, whose largest shareholder is the US, makes impossible to attain through the Doing Business recipe for attracting private investments.

Privatisation, outsourcing, and budget cuts have already undermined the capacities of countries to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. And inequality-boosting policies encouraged by the World Bank will continue to be harmful in the post-pandemic world. The erosion of social safety nets, deemed “burdensome” and “costly” by the Bank’s metrics, have affected 2.7 billion people facing unemployment and income loss.

Since its inception, the Doing Business index has been criticised by civil society organisations, academics, trade unions and the World Bank’s chief economist and an independent panel of experts.

In August 2020, the Bank was forced to suspend the publication due to “a number of irregularities”. An internal investigation concluded that undue pressure by Bank management over the Doing Business team to manipulate data in 2017 and 2019 led to altered results for Azerbaijan, China, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. An external panel has been tasked to undertake a comprehensive review of the Doing Business methodology, but the process so far has lacked transparency and accountability, with limited consultation with civil society.

As the Bank prepares to launch its Doing Business report for 2021, more than 360 civil society organisations, academics, former UN staff and independent experts from 80 countries have signed an open letter calling for an end to the Doing Business rankings and reports. If the World Bank is serious about building a resilient and inclusive recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, it is time it aligns its discourse with its actions. Ditching the harmful Doing Business rankings would be a good place to start.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.

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