KAMPUCHEANS, Uganda (Reuters) – Uganda’s most famous tourist destination has been buzzing as tourists flocked to the capital city of Kampala to buy mosquito masks, while people have been warned not to get too close to the city’s famed wildlife.
At the weekend, Kampala, one of Uganda’s oldest and most famous cities, saw crowds of tourists, locals and local wildlife officials trekking up and down the city streets to buy masks, which cost around R2,500 ($5).
The city has seen an influx of foreign visitors as they try to catch a glimpse of the world’s newest pandemic, but officials have warned that the spread of the virus could have serious consequences.
“The virus is very contagious, it’s not easy to control, so you can’t expect everyone to wear a mask,” said a wildlife park official.
“I hope that everyone who comes to Uganda will wear a face mask.”
The virus has spread rapidly across Uganda, causing more than 10,000 cases and nearly 7,000 deaths since it first hit the African nation in March, the World Health Organization said on Monday.
Its peak in late April brought the total death toll in the country to more than 4,000, but some experts say the virus is still far too low to be regarded as a public health crisis.
It is still not clear if the virus can spread from person to person in Uganda, which has a population of just 10 million people.
In addition to the virus, the country has also suffered a number of natural disasters including a drought and floods.
The country’s biggest airport has also seen a surge in arrivals from Africa, with nearly a million people crossing the border between South Sudan and Uganda, according to the airport’s director.
“It’s not like there’s not people here, but we are getting more and more,” he said.
“But people are still in the cities.
I can’t say whether they’re coming from the capital or from elsewhere.”
The World Health Organisation said the virus may not be curable, but it has helped curb the spread.
The World Food Programme said in a statement that it was working to help those affected by the virus.
“Food shortages and extreme weather are increasing in the face of the pandemic,” the agency said.
“More than 100 million people worldwide need access to safe and affordable food.”
For the first time in nearly 30 years, the government of President Yoweri Museveni has been asked to set up a joint Ebola response unit, but he has yet to take any action.
The head of Uganda, Yowerich Karim, said on Sunday that he expected the outbreak to die down in a few months.
“I hope we can be the one to take a step forward and start putting a lot of effort into getting Ebola contained,” he told Reuters news agency.
The government is already taking steps to contain the virus and its impact.
Last week, the United Nations said Uganda was the only country in West Africa with the capacity to control the virus through vaccines.
But Karim said the outbreak was spreading fast.
“We have to make sure that we control the disease so that we can stop it spreading,” he added.