Uganda was mired in confusion over COVID-19 last week after the parliamentary speaker said a cure would soon be rolled out in the country. As the coronavirus pandemic continues, misinformation could prove harmful to efforts to mitigate and control the outbreak, head of Uganda’s medical body says.

Uganda’s parliamentary speaker, Rebecca Kadaga, in mid-March 2020 told parliamentarians that a ‘treatment’ for COVID-19 had been discovered and would soon be rolled out in Uganda.

Efforts to reach Kadaga to shed more light on her claim were futile as her press secretary, Sam Obbo, told SciDev.Net that she had no comments to make on this.

Tweet by Rebecca Kadaga claiming to have a spray that kills COVID-19.

Spreading fake news about the coronavirus

Richard Idro, a research scientist and the president of the Uganda Medical Association, said there is no cure or vaccine for COVID-19 yet. Kadaga’s claim was made against a backdrop of the World Health Organization launching the SOLIDARITY trial last month, which will compare untested treatments against each other.

“Any claim of a treatment or cure without scientific evidence gives false hope but might also be dangerous,” Idro tells SciDev.Net.

Pontiano Kaleebu, the director of the Uganda Virus Research Institute and Medical Research Council says that the whole situation was an embarrassment that needs to be avoided.

According to Kaleebu medical matters need to be guided by the Ministry of Health.

Idro says that  Kadaga’s statements were “misleading” and could work against effective preventive messages.

There have been many myths and misinformation about COVID-19 ranging from the virus being bad spirits and black people and the young not likely to contract it.

President Yoweri Museveni in his live broadcast update on 31 March warned Uganda’s Acholi cultural leaders from misleading the people that COVID-19 was an act of witchcraft and not a disease. “They should be warned very clearly to stop that because if you oppose science we shall go against you”.

“The young people should be very careful. Some of the people dying are young people,” said President Yoweri Museveni during another of his live televised COVID-19 addresses to the nation.

From the World Health Organization Region Africa dashboard there were over 4,291 infections in the continent as today (2 April) with 124 deaths from 42 countries.  South Africa has the most registered cases, at 1,400. Algeria has registered 58 deaths, the highest in the region. Kenya has recorded one death.

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