Uganda tightens anti-COVID-19 measures amid infection hike

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on Friday announced a string of measures aimed at containing the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus as the country is experiencing a second wave.

Museveni said in a live nationwide televised address that the country is now facing an unprecedented spread of the pandemic with figures showing a 17-fold increase in infections over the past three weeks.

“The proportion of people testing positive from samples tested has remained as high as 17 percent, yet for us to control the disease effectively, according to other experiences, this number has to be less than 5 percent,” he said.

The disease, as of Wednesday, has spread to 108 districts across the country from 61 districts. As of Friday, the country had registered a cumulative total of 68,779 COVID-19 cases, 49,026 recoveries and 584 deaths from the disease since March last year, according to the health ministry.

Museveni said the rapid spread has overwhelmed the country’s hospital system and a strategy is needed to reduce the infections levels. “Government will aim at reducing the speed and the intensity of transmission within the next 42 days so that the number of new cases is less than that of available beds and oxygen machines in the country,” the president said. Museveni announced the suspension of public and private transport for 42 days.

He said all cross-boundary district and intra-district movement of public transport, private vehicles and commercial motorcycles is banned for six weeks, with effect from Friday. Cargo and private vehicles carrying patients, emergency and essential workers are exempted from the ban, he added. Essential workers include those from the medical industry, security and media among others.

Museveni extended the country’s night curfew by two hours, which now starts from 7:00 p.m. and ends at 05:30 a.m. local time, to reduce the movement of people. Besides, all schools and other educational institutions are requested to close for 42 days.

The country’s international borders will remain open but there will be strict observance of the pandemic prevention measures to stop the novel coronavirus and its variants from entering the country. He said burials should only be attended by close relatives since the events are categorized as high risk. Places of worship and entertainment centers shall remain closed and public gatherings are not allowed.

Museveni directed institutions and organizations to further scale down the number of staff that come to the workplace to 10 percent from the previous 30 percent. Museveni said the government is working on importing more COVID-19 vaccines as the ultimate solution to the pandemic challenge.

“To date, we have vaccinated a total of 869,915 people, accounting for 90.2 percent of the 964,000 doses received. Among those, 57,797 people (6.6 percent) have received both the first and second dose,” Museveni said.

On Wednesday, Uganda received the third batch of 175,200 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine through the World Health Organization COVAX facility and an additional 688,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine are expected in early August.

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