Ministry Of Health Recommends Re-introduction of Breathalyzers to Curb Drunk-driving

The ministry of Health has called for the reintroduction of breathalyzers to curb drink-driving after a 3-year halt due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

In a statement released on Saturday, Dr Henry Mwebesa, the director general of health services said while testing alcohol use by drivers using these mouth devices was stopped in 2020, their evaluation shows that the chance of getting infected now is negligible following a significant decrease in Covid-19 cases.

The move to reintroduce breathalyzers immediately was reached after a discussion between the concerned ministries and agencies including the police and the ministry of Works and Transport. According to the new guidelines, each client to be tested will use a separate, sealed and disposable tube to blow through the breathalyzer.

Reports have pointed to drink-driving as the leading cause of road-traffic crashes that have since increased and according to police records 40 per cent are fatal meaning that lives are being unnecessarily lost. Previously, activists have pushed for a quick return of these devices on the road.

In an earlier interview, Dr David Kalema, a consultant at Safer Initiative Uganda, an entity created by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to find solutions for alcohol-related harms had pointed out that the breathalyzers campaign which came to be popularly known as ‘kawunyemu’ had helped reduce drunk-driving and it’s withdrawal was a major setback.  

However, according to experts, alcohol and drug addiction are increasingly becoming a challenge that even as Butabika, the national mental hospital has raised an alarm that the dedicated addiction unit is perennially full, more admissions keep coming.

Dr Hafisa Lukwata, the assistant commissioner in charge of mental health in the ministry of Health says the biggest challenge with alcohol abuse is the fact that the vice has been normalized in the community and therefore not recognised as a mental illness.

As a result, she says people are watched as they drink their way to addiction without caution. Kalema says this challenge of harmful use of alcohol can only be solved by law enforcement in terms of bans and imposing high taxes on drinking. 

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