The presidency has adopted stringent measures to keep the head of state and members of his immediate family safe from the deadly coronavirus pandemic, sources have told Sunday Monitor.
State House has isolated all staff whose jobs can get them in proximity with President Museveni or other close aides who are in regular contact with the head of state.
“There is almost nonstop checking of temperature and other tests and staffers taken into isolation are barred from any physical contacts with anyone from the outside, including their own immediate family,” a source at State House told Sunday Monitor in confidence because of the sensitivity of the matter.
Mr Don Wanyama, the senior principal press secretary, said the President has scaled down physical meetings and only conducts necessary ones such as Cabinet sessions.
“There is general observation of all necessary precautions around the President to keep him and those around him safe,” Mr Wanyama said.
This newspaper understands those isolated from contact with the public are mainly members of the President’s security detail and core staffers such as housekeepers.
These include those in State House Nakasero and Entebbe.
“They had to be screened thoroughly and some asked to work from home,” a source said, adding that the strict adherence to health watch also affects members of the first family and their aides.
The isolated staff are accommodated at State House, Nakasero, where temporary tents have been erected in the gardens for them.
Other staff from departments such as protocol and diplomacy that sit in offices such as at Parliament, are not isolated.
Sources say Mr Museveni limits contacts with people and maintains social distance so much that while flying to Karamoja on Thursday, he only took to the chopper with his bodyguard. The rest of his staff had to travel by other means, unlike in the past when they joined in the air travel.
The President tweeted a picture of himself shortly before taking off for official duties, urging the public to continue behaving cautiously, maintain social distance, wash hands as many times, “and those sneezing please keep away from the public.”
Mr Wanyama said: “The President is practicing what he is preaching. He has always observed a high degree of hygiene. You know he washes his hands regularly. He has told you about donating his right hand to the public and keeping the left to himself. Never clapping.”
Regarding the Cabinet, the President has also taken tough measures. Two female ministers whose husbands recently travelled abroad and did not go into isolation, Sunday Monitor has learnt, were directed by the President to stay away from Cabinet meetings. The same directive went to a male minister, whose son had also just returned from abroad.
To reduce the size of Cabinet, the sources say, the President has kept away all ministers of State, and on some occasions some Cabinet ministers who are deemed not so critical to the issues being discussed are also not invited to meetings.
Cabinet has been sitting virtually every day during this crisis and a number of Cabinet sub-committees are constantly meeting.
Those who attend meetings are screened for symptoms and their body temperatures taken.
In four national addresses in a space of six days, President Museveni announced several measures to combat the spread of the virus, culminating in the partial lockdown as public transport of any form was banned.
President Museveni’s vigilance against the global coronavirus pandemic could be further heightened with the confirmation on Friday that UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson had tested positive for the virus.
In a tweet, Mr Johnson said: “Over the last 24 hours, I have developed mild symptoms and tested positive for coronavirus. I am now self-isolating, but I will continue to lead the government’s response via video-conference as we fight this virus.”
The British political leader becomes the most high-profile personality to contract the virus that has also affected the heir to the British throne, Prince Charles, and left his mother Queen Elizabeth in self-isolation because she had had contact with Mr Johnson on March 11.
Last weekend, Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel put herself under quarantine after her physician, with whom she had been in contact, tested positive for the virus.
Not taking anything to chance, President Museveni has ordered all his aides tested after every few hours and vehicles, equipment and offices they use “must be disinfected as many times as possible per day,” sources said.
Additional reporting by Nobert Atukunda