Uganda closes schools to fight Ebola, new cases drop

Uganda closed schools across the country on Friday to slow the spread of Ebola, despite the health minister insisting to AFP that new cases had decreased.

The directive to close schools two weeks before the end of the term was announced earlier this month following the death of eight children from the highly contagious disease.

But in recent weeks, the number of new infections registered in the capital Kampala and the epicenters of Mubende and Kassanda has decreased, Health Minister Jane Ruth Aceng told AFP.

“The biggest breakthrough in this fight against Ebola for Uganda is that communities have realized that Ebola is deadly and kills,” he said.

“We encourage the public to remain vigilant and cooperate with the health teams if we want to win this battle and there are signs that Uganda is winning,” he added.

The WHO office in Uganda said on Thursday that no cases had been declared as of November 22 for nine days in Kamapala, 10 days in Mubende and 12 days in Kassanda.

The outbreak has claimed 55 lives out of 141 cases according to the Ugandan authorities, who have imposed lockdowns in Mubende and Kassanda.

The measures include a dusk-to-dawn curfew, a ban on personal travel, and the closure of markets, bars and churches.

At a Kampala school, a father told AFP he was relieved to bring his son home.

“I think this early closure was really necessary, because of the Ebola situation in the country,” said banker Joab Baryayaka.

“We trust that they are safer with us than staying at the school, where we cannot guarantee the situation.”

Since the outbreak was declared in Mubende on September 20, the disease has spread throughout the East African nation.

President Yoweri Museveni has repeatedly ruled out imposing Covid-like restrictions across the country.

According to WHO criteria, a disease outbreak ends when there are no new cases for 42 consecutive days, twice the incubation period of the disease.

The strain now circulating is known as the Sudan Ebola virus, for which there is no vaccine, although several potential injections are heading toward clinical trials.

Ebola is spread through bodily fluids. Common symptoms are fever, vomiting, bleeding, and diarrhea.

Outbreaks are difficult to contain, especially in urban settings.

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