Inside Museveni’s Nation Address on COVID-19; Key issues summarized

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President Museveni; File Photo

President Museveni has maintained the partial lockdown in Uganda as a measure to stop the spread of coronavirus. However, some few restrictions have been loosened.

In a nation address delivered from State House Nakasero on Monday, President Museveni directed that the dusk to dawn curfew (7:00 pm to 6:30) will remain in place as a strategic measure in stopping spread of coronavirus and crime.

He said the curfew is used as an enforcement tool to prevent nocturnal high-risk activities through stopping the uncontrolled socializing at night and it deters crime under the cover of darkness.

Some border districts have been opened but others stay locked. Rakai, Kyotera, Amuru, Buikwe, Gulu, Adjumani, Moyo and Nebbi, Zombo, Busia, Biliisa stay closed. Amudat, Bububa, Bukwo, Bunibujo, Buvuma, Kabalae, Kalangala, Kanungu, Kases, Kikuube, Kisoro, Kitgum, Koboko, Kween, Lamwo, Maracha, Mayuge, Moroto, Namayingo, Namisindwa, Ntoroko, Ntungamo, Pakwach, Rubanda, Rubiriizi, Rukiga, Rukungiri, Sironko, and Yumbe will be opened but with continued vigilance.

Public transport has been opened in border districts but not in those where there are cases of coronavirus (those that stayed locked). However, use of masks and hand-washing must be adhered to.

Private vehicles that had been allowed to carry 3 passengers including the drive will be allowed to carry four people but all must wear masks. These however will not operate in border districts.

The boda-boda operations remain under tight restriction since they do not use gazette routes and penetrate deeper into the population. The mitigation of a barrier between the rider and the passenger also may increase the risk in case of accident. The MOH and Ministry of transport will continue to assess this innovation. Boda-bodas will continue to ferry cargo.

Schools and higher institutions of learning remain closed. Museveni said, nobody, who cares Ugandan children can talk about opening schools or institutions of learning before the COVID-19 vaccine or treatment is found. However, scientists are working on a home-made vaccine.

He said, 3 radio sets will be distributed to all homesteads to facilitate learning in homes, but his initial idea of giving out TV sets was shot down by scientists since it involved congregating learners in one place.

Places of worship remain closed since they cluster unknown people from different areas of origin putting many lives at risk; masks may be difficult to enforce and contact tracing may not be possible since there are no records of worshipers. The National Task Force will engage religious leaders to discuss way forward on how best they can operate.

Salons remain closed because the businesses involve close contacts with clients and host people from different background which makes tracing of contacts not possible. MOH and ministry of trade will engage salon owners on available options to operate in future.

Shopping arcades remain closed since they accommodate many people with unknown risk profiles, have multiple entrances, poor ventilation, no social distancing which puts many people’s lives at risk. However, the National Task Force should engage arcade owners to discuss which arcades can operate under SOPs.

Mobile markets (cattle markets etc) which congregate many people from different places remain closed. However National Task Force should direct trade ministry on how to move forward in future.

Hawkers and food vendors interact with many people with unknown risk profile which makes it difficult to track them in case of infection and therefore not allowed.

Uganda’s borders remain closed to stop importation of the virus but Repatriation of dead bodies has been allowed considered the relatives of the dead provide a medical certificate, postmortem report, identification documents. Appropriate packaging of the dead body is critical and accompanying relatives must go into 14-day quarantine.

Travel abroad for medical treatment is not allowed but emergency travel into the country can be arranged case by case.

Political gatherings remain under tight restrictions owing to the high number of people they congregate. Museveni said all options have been considered including looking for a vaccine or clear treatment, postponing the election and holding an election within safety guidelines; The EC picked use of media during campaigns, and observing SOPs on voting day.

However President Museveni directed that Salon operators, private education institutions and private schools which were affected by the lockdown should be registered by government to find means of giving them financial support in terms of cheap capital when the situation normalizes. The Gender and education ministers will follow up on it.

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