The biggest COVID-19 testing centre, the Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) hasn’t received funding from the government towards COVID -19 activities.
This was revealed by Prof. Pontiano Kaleebu, the UVRI Director while appearing before the Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Friday to respond to audit queries raised by the Auditor-General in his report.
Prof. Kaleebu noted that the institute suspended all other activities for the third and fourth quarters and diverted Shs780m from other programs in order to fund COVID 19 activities.
The institute which hosts a regional referral lab on influenza has been the sole research and testing facility for COVID 19 in Uganda until recently when Makerere University started testing also.
Kaleebu added that the institute presented a budget of 1.7 million dollars to the Ministry Of Health to go towards their COVID-19 related works, but that funding has never been availed.
He stated that most of the funding has come in from donors and partners like the WHO, CDC and the Jack Ma Foundation.
But Frederick Angura the Tororo South MP was curious as to why the institute was neglected and yet the government had been availed a hefty Covid-19 response supplementary budget.
So far, Uganda has carried out over 140,000 coronavirus tests since the disease outbreak in March 2020.
PAC Vice Chairperson Okin Ojara asked Dr Kaleebu to explain about the state of COVID-19 cases in Uganda. Uganda has so far recorded 755 cases of COVID-19 over the last three months. Majority of these were recorded among truck drivers, who entered the country from Kenya, Tanzania and South Sudan.
Dr Kaleebu said that majority of the positive COVID-19 cases in Uganda are young people yet other countries have registered cases among the elder people with a medical history. He however said that it is not yet clear why Africa has mild cases compared to other continents except for the obvious reason of age.
However, Kaleebu said that they are proud that the institute’s work is appreciated especially during this pandemic.