FACT CHECK: Does Uganda Only Have 19 Coronavirus-Related Deaths Because Of Hydroxychloroquine?

Varun Hukeri | General Assignment & Analysis Reporter

An image shared on Facebook over 250 times claims Uganda only has 19 deaths related to coronavirus because hydroxychloroquine “is eaten like candy” in the country.

Verdict: False

Uganda has reported 75 deaths due to the coronavirus pandemic, and hydroxycholoroquine has not been used as a treatment for the novel coronavirus in the country since July.

Fact Check:

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) situation report on coronavirus, Uganda had 75 reported COVID-19 deaths as of Oct. 2. The African country had 33 reported deaths at the time the image was shared on Sept. 4, according to the WHO. (RELATED: Viral Image Claims Dr. Anthony Fauci Has Known Hydroxychloroquine Is A ‘Wonder Drug For Coronavirus’ Since 2005)

The health ministry’s general health services director Henry Mwebesa said in an April 11 tweet that Ugandan health officials had been using hydroxychloroquine on some virus patients at the start of the outbreak. But news sources in Uganda reported that the health ministry halted the use of the drug to treat coronavirus patients in July. The WHO announced around the same time that hydroxychloroquine trials would be discontinued after researchers concluded that the drug was an ineffective treatment for coronavirus.

The post attempts to link the country’s relatively low COVID-19 death figure to Ugandans allegedly eating hydroxychloroquine “like candy” to treat malaria. Treatment for malaria in the country used to include chloroquine and other drugs, according to a WHO report. Researchers at Uganda’s Makerere University concluded in a 2011 academic paper that the country’s health policy shifted in 2005 from chloroquine-based treatments to artemisinin-based treatments.

The Ugandan government implemented strict lockdown measures following the coronavirus outbreak and some experts have cited this move as the reason behind the country’s low death toll, Reuters reported. The nation of 42 million people saw schools closed and large gatherings banned three days before the first confirmed virus case was confirmed on March 21, according to the outlet. The London School of Economics also noted that the limited capacity of the country’s health care system may mean infections and deaths have gone unreported.

A national guidelines report released by the health ministry in April also called for the closing of businesses, restrictions on vehicle movement and a curfew. Masks later became mandatory in May, according to Reuters.

At the time of publication, Uganda has nearly 8,500 coronavirus cases, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center.

Varun Hukeri

General Assignment & Analysis Reporter
Follow Varun on Twitter