Government has for the second time deferred the planned distribution of free facemasks to Ugandans aged six years and above after Cabinet made last-minute changes to the required specifications.
The exercise was supposed to start yesterday with the 40 border districts under lockdown. However, when Cabinet sat on Monday, they reviewed specifications and adopted three layers as opposed to two layers.
The ministers also agreed to dangle the deadline so as to allow Ministry of Health officials communicate to the companies and Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS).
The Health ministry Permanent Secretary, Dr Diana Atwine, told Daily Monitor yesterday in a telephone interview that the distribution will not take place today because production of the recommended masks has not yet started.
Dr Atwine explained that the companies had initially been asked to manufacture two-layer masks, but when the specimen changed to three-layer masks, the process had to start afresh.
“It is true that our schedule was supposed to have started distribution of masks but there were a number of changes that were made along the way,” Dr Atwine said.
“We had come up with specifications, but then through consultations, there were some changes. The manufacturers had even sent samples to UNBS for sampling, but then when the specification changed a bit from two-layer to three-layer masks, then it changed and we had to start afresh,” Dr Atwine said.
She added: “We asked the manufactures to re-submit the masks with three layers, which they did. We are behind the schedule because we are waiting for confirmation of quality of the specimen submitted to UNBS by suppliers and once that is done, they will be able to start.”
Dr Atwine said the masks that will be produced will be branded so that they are not sold by anyone.
Mr Emmanuel Ainebyoona, the ministry spokesperson, said the sub-committee of Cabinet changed specifications due to lack of the filters that were supposed to be added in the two-layer masks.
More than 20 companies have so far submitted the three-layer mask samples to UNBS for testing and approval. At least 10 companies have so far been cleared to start manufacturing masks for 33 million Ugandans.