Uganda tightens up COVID-19 regulations as death cases continue to rise to 32

Uganda tightens up COVID-19 regulations as death cases continue to rise to 32

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As part of the presidential directive, Museveni has instructed the Police to tighten enforcement of the curfew for commuter motorcycles bodabodas, private and public transport, among others.

The curfew for bodabodas begins at 6:00pm whereas that for private vehicles and public transport is 9:00pm.

This was announced on Sunday by the information minister, Judith Nabakooba, during a press conference in Mityana town.

Nabakooba said the President’s fresh directive follows a spike in the COVID-19 cases and deaths.

As of Saturday, Uganda had recorded 2,847 cases and 29 deaths. By July 23, the country had recorded one COVID-19 death.

“In one month, we have 29 deaths and the number continues to grow every day.

This is about one person dying every day,” she said.

Despite a spike in COVID-19 cases, she said, bars are illegally operating and people are increasingly attending weddings, funerals in large numbers without face masks and social distancing.

At the same event she hosted at Enro Hotel, the minister lauded Ugandans who are voluntarily helping enforce the COVID-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs) among the citizenry.

“We have seen bodaboda leaders, taxi operators supporting the Police in enforcing the COVID-19 guidelines. As a result, there has been an improvement with passengers embracing the guidelines,” she said.

Nabakooba urged other sectors such as markets, arcades and individuals to embrace the system of community policing.

Reopening schools, worship places

 Nabakooba said the President has also instructed the National Task Force on COVID-19 to review the possibility of a phased reopening of schools starting with candidate classes and clinical medical students.

The task force will also review the status of other sectors such as places of worship like mosques and churches, mobile markets, tourism and the airport.

Other sectors to be reviewed include the entertainment industry such as bars, cinemas, nightclubs and sports events.

Security intensified

Police spokesperson Fred Enanga said they have intensified enforcement following the presidential directive.

He added that they will mount roadblocks for bodabodas, private and public transport, not excluding pedestrians without masks.

Following the lifting of the lockdown, Enanga said, certain roadblocks in the urban centres were removed to allow traffic flow smoothly. He said they would re-introduce them.

On the arrest of politicians, he said, all regional and division Police commanders have been instructed by the director of operations to arrest whoever breaches the COVID-19 SOPs.

Police officers who fail to implement this, he said, will face disciplinary action.

“We have also deployed the Police Professional Standards Unit to monitor the Police stations or division failing to enforce the SOPs. Defaulters will be held accountable and disciplinary action will be taken,” he said.

He added that implementation of the presidential directive will be conducted jointly with other security organs, such as the army.

What other players say

 Xavier Ejoyi, the country director of ActionAid, blamed government officials for the laxity on implementing the presidential guidelines on COVID-19.

“Ugandans are becoming relaxed because they have been betrayed by politicians, including senior ministers.

How will a common Ugandan respect social distancing when ministers are holding political rallies?”

“Ugandans had respected the rules, until the political season started where ministers walk among crowds without masks on,” he said.

To restore respect for SOPs, Ejoyi said, the Government should arraign ministers in courts of law over faulting of the guidelines.

Warning issued

Nabakooba said the President also ordered the immediate arrest of any politician or government official who directly or indirectly facilitates political campaigns gatherings or big rallies.

Going by this directive, it will not spare cabinet ministers and members of the ruling party, the National Resistance Movement (NRM), who have openly held rallies in their respective constituencies.

“I, therefore, want to alert fellow politicians to stick to the guidelines issued by the Electoral Commission or else risk being arrested,” she said.

In about a month, several NRM politicians have held massive rallies contrary to the health ministry guidelines on the coronavirus pandemic.

It started with the health minister, Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, who is aspiring to Lira District Woman Member of Parliament and the Koboko Municipality MP, Evelyn Anite, among others.

Last week, Sam Kwizera Bitangaro, the Bufumbira County South MP and Mwesigwa Rukutana, the Rushenyi County MP, both NRM members, also held rallies in their constituencies. Bitangaro has since been arrested by the Police.

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