Is This Uganda’s Coronavirus Patient Zero?

The image above has been circulating online with claims that the man in the picture is Uganda’s COVID-19 patient zero.


In medical science and common parlance, the term “patient zero” is used to refer to “the first documented patient in a disease epidemic within a population”.

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are efforts in every country to keep tabs on the spread of the virus. As such, it is important for authorities and medical practitioners to identify the first patients so that the necessary measures are enforced to minimize, or stop altogether, the spread of the novel Coronavirus.

In Uganda, the Ministry of Health confirmed [document download] its first case of COVID-19 on 21st March 2020. The patient is a 36-year-old Ugandan man, who arrived from Dubai on Saturday. He had travelled to Dubai on the 17th of March for business purposes.

On 2nd March, 4 foreign nationals, 1 French and 3 Chinese, had been isolated at Entebbe Regional Referral Hospital after showing flu symptoms. They all tested negative but were directed to self-quarantine for 14 days.

The country started taking precautionary measures way before the confirmation of the first case of COVID-19.


While it is true that Uganda confirmed its first case of COVID-19, an image search shows that the photo being shared was taken at the John F Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in New York on February 27th, 2020 for The New York Times where it appears in a February 29th report titled ‘Surgeon General Urges the Public to Stop Buying Face Masks’.

Subsequently, the image has been used in various news reports at The New York Times, in syndication by partners such as the Miami Herald as well as other media organizations around the world. The Buffalo News, for instance, used it in a news article with the headline, ‘Cuomo urges calm as New York confronts arrival of coronavirus’.

South Africa’s Daily Sun news outlet used the image in a piece titled: ‘Soon Corona survivors will envy the dead’.

The only other information given on Uganda’s patient zero’s identity is that he is a resident of Kibuli, Kagungulu zone in Kampala. There are no reports of him ever being to New York.


The image being circulated is not of Uganda’s patient zero and the claim is, therefore, FALSE.

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Peris Gachahi

Peris Gachahi is a reporter at Africa Uncensored.She is passionate about human interest stories told through in-depth documentaries, data stories and digital storytelling.

Piga Firimbi