The Uganda COVID-19 national response plan, through the MRC/UVRI and LSHTM Uganda Research Unit has received additional funding of £2.7 million (13B UGX) from the Medical Research Council/UK Research and Innovation (MRC/UKRI) towards diagnostic testing, sequencing, clinical support and community based surveillance to support and assess the wider impact of infection and pandemic mitigation strategies.
Current testing has confirmed that while importation of the virus into Uganda remains a high risk, the risk of COVID-19 spread in the community, notably in the face of eased national lockdown measures is also significant. The funding will therefore support testing and virus sequencing of appropriate populations through diagnostic test support for more than 100,000 tests in collaboration with the Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI), which hosts Uganda’s COVID-19 reference laboratories.
Initial COVID-19 specific funding received from the MRC/UKRI through the MRC/UVRI and LSHTM Uganda Research Unit supported the procurement of diagnostic reagents for 10,000 tests, as well as expertise and trained personnel to deliver the results at UVRI. The funding also supported researchers at MRC/UVRI and LSHTM Uganda Research Unit, UVRI and Ministry of Health and their partners to generate Uganda’s first SARS-CoV-2 full genomes through rapid local sequencing.
Using the Unit’s multidisciplinary research platforms, community-based surveillance of strategically chosen study populations in Lukaya town (a truck-stop on the trans-African Highway) and the adjacent sub county of Kyamulibwa (the site for the Unit’s rural General Population Cohort [GPC]), will be conducted for 18 months to provide data on the pandemic in high risk and general populations. This will provide the foundation for answering critical scientific questions relating to the pandemic, including transmission dynamics, burden and distribution of infection, and will provide a platform for local researchers to contribute to COVID-19 knowledge both locally and internationally.