It is not yet a state of emergency- AG

Friday April 03 2020
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The Attorney General, Mr William Byaruhanga. FILE PHOTO

The Attorney General, Mr William Byaruhanga, yesterday told Parliament that the current circumstances in the country on coronavirus do not warrant a state of emergency and will only be declared once the situation deteriorates.
So far, the state has issued five orders in less than a month in the hope that the measures would control the spread of Covid- 19, now a world public health threat.
Mr Byaruhanga was responding to a section of Members of Parliament who have called upon government to declare a state of emergency.

The Ministry of Health has so far recorded 44 coronavirus patients, most of them having been people who travelled abroad. The global infected persons are more than 900,000 with more than 40,000 deaths and about 170,000 people having recovered from the pandemic.
Mr Byaruhanga said the President together with his Cabinet are consciously taking action to prevent further spread of the virus. He explained that some of the measures already taken like the ban in the transport sector are aimed at maintaining social distance.

Article 110 of the Constitution gives the President and his Cabinet powers to declare a state of emergency if the security or economic life of the country is affected by internal insurgency or natural disasters and to ensure stringent measures are taken to secure public safety.
“The President has had this discussion in Cabinet several times... It is not new that this is the first time the pandemic of this nature and magnitude has invaded the world. It is a process that is progressing and we are learning on the job,” Mr Byaruhanga said.

He added: “When the President informs the view that the strict enforcement of these are not effectively containing the virus, then there shall be a consideration on whether to declare a state of emergency or not. It is his view together with Cabinet that the current circumstances do not yet justify such a state.”
He said declaring a state of emergency will result in suspending rights and freedoms. “These measures may have to extend to commandeering private cars, it may extend to turning warehouses into hospitals, turning stadia into hospitals and turning people’s apartments into hospitals. The President is waiting to exercise his judgment on the matter when he thinks the time is ripe,” Mr Byaruhanga said.