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Makerere explains ‘fake’ coronavirus test results

Makerere University has defended itself against claims that false coronavirus test results were released from its laboratory.

The university vice chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe, expressed shock at President Yoweri Museveni’s statement that the university issued false coronavirus test results

“I was hearing about it for the first time. I have requested for a report from the researchers,” Nawangwe told New Vision.

President Museveni, while speaking on Thursday at State House during the 2020/2021budget reading, accused Makerere University laboratory of issuing false coronavirus test results.

“Some of the 679 confirmed cases were classified as positive when they are not  by a laboratory in Makerere because they were careless. Only three people were working there and I think they got tired and they did not do things properly and some samples which the Ministry of Health should clarify, were classified as positive and yet they were not. It was quickly discovered and fresh tests were done and the facts came out,” Museveni said.

According to reports, the allegations stem from a fight over who should carry out tests pitting the university against technocrats in the health ministry and Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI).

“The allegations could have been initiated by individuals who are trying to fight the Makerere University lab after it carried out tests at no cost and yet other labs are charging $65 (about UGX.210,000) per test. There are a lot of fights involving those who had procured reagents and would miss out on the deal had Makerere developed cheaper testing kits,” the New Vision quoting unnamed sources reported.

Also at the centre of the struggles is the university deputy vice-chancellor in charge of finance and administration, Prof. William Bazeyo, who controls a lot of funds at the institution and could have, therefore, created a lot of enemies in the process.

Bazeyo is currently heading the COVID-19 research at Makerere.

We have learnt some of the officials who had discredited the university had blocked Makerere from releasing a statement on Friday, insisting that only the health ministry speaks on the matter.

However, a statement obtained on Friday indicated that the university started the testing when they received critical kits from their partners in the US and the Netherlands.

“After training from UVRI and authorisation from the health ministry, we started testing on April 28. Makerere was the only lab that performed the Rapid Assessment Survey. We tested 24,114 participants and got four positives. We have shared supplies and
samples with UVRI and other testing labs,” the statement reads, dispelling talks alleging false coronavirus test results.

UVRI explains false coronavirus test results

The statement further read: “On May 25, up to June 7, when UVRI and Central Public Health Laboratory had run out of testing kits, we were the main lab testing for the country. We tested about 20,000 people, out of which 471 were positive.
This was a time when border points like Elegu (sometimes with 50 positives a day) and Malaba with a high number of positives, had not yet developed their capacity to test and were all sending samples to Makerere for testing.”

Makerere noted that they had a total of 62 lab personnel working in shifts and that they handled the samples provided.

The senior presidential advisor on epidemics, Dr Monica Musenero, said they were investigating the matter and noted that no formal report had been written to the President.

“There are not many people. We shall take them through an anti-body check to find out the truth. Then I will write my report and brief the President,” she said.

The health ministry spokesperson, Emmanuel Ainebyoona, on Friday said there was a virtual meeting involving health officials and noted that they were coming up with a detailed statement on the matter.

“The Minister of Health and senior officials in the ministry are currently locked up in a meeting and they will come up with a comprehensive statement over the matter, possibly before the end of the day,” he said.

On whether the number of those affected by the virus would change after the subtraction of those falsely classified as sick, Ainebyoona said it would be contained.

Additional reporting by the New Vision

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