Quarantine escapees face jail under new law

Thursday March 26 2020

Deserted. Closed shops at Namayiba bus park in

Deserted. Closed shops at Namayiba bus park in Kampala yesterday. A number of businesses have closed in respect to government guidelines on controlling coronavirus. PHOTO BY ABUBAKER LUBOWA 

By ANDREW BAGALA

The Minister of Health, Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, has issued a statutory instrument that provides a two-month prison sentence for anyone who helps another to escape from a coronavirus quarantine.

The statutory instrument number 52 dubbed ‘The Public Health (Control of Covid – 19) rules, 2020,’ gazetted on March 24, 2020, also gives the Health minister powers to declare any place an infected area and put it under lockdown for 28 days.

“Any person who aids a person who is confined in a place designated for isolation or for quarantine for Covid-19, in escaping or attempting to escape from the place commits an offence and is liable to imprisonment for two months,” Section 11 (2)(a) of the statutory instrument reads in part.

The jail sentence
Section 11(2)(b) of the instrument also states that anyone who “conveys anything or caused anything to be conveyed into a place designated for isolation or quarantine for Covid-19 with intent to facilitate the escape of any person confine in the place” will serve two months’ in prison.

Since the government issued directives to quarantine passengers arriving in Uganda from countries with many cases of coronavirus, there have been incidents of some people escaping from isolation centres. Some of the escapees have been arrested and have tested positive of coronavirus.

While the law does not state punitive measures for persons being aided to escape from isolation, it says police will be ordered to arrest them and bring them back to the quarantine.

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Such people can be charged according to the laws in the current Penal Code Act.
The new instrument will not punish those arrested in incidents that happened before March 24 since the law does not work retrogressively.

The instrument bans gatherings, mass physical treating, bars, public meetings and live animal markets until April 16, 2020.

Banning gatherings
“Where a place or premises specified in subrule (1) is open, contrary to the provision, or where any activity, event, meeting or gathering specified in subrule (1) is held contrary to the provision, the person in-charge of the place or the event, meeting or gathering, as the case may be, commits an offence and is liable, on conviction, to imprisonment for a period not exceeding two months,” Section 9 (2) of the instrument states.

The statutory instrument makes it mandatory for the person in-charge of the household or premise where a person suspected to have contracted coronavirus to notify a medical officer.

Section 13 (3) of the instrument states: “A medical officer of health may keep all or any persons in a declared infected area under observation in any place selected by him or her or under such surveillance as he or she may consider necessary.”

The medical officers or any person with written instruments will be able to carry out a search anywhere to find people suspected to have coronavirus.

Yesterday, the Ministry of Health announced five new cases of coronavirus in Uganda, bringing the total to 14. Among the five new cases is a 63-year-old Ugandan, a resident of Najjanankumbi in Kampala, who travelled from Germany recently.

Infected area

The new law. If an area is declared infected by the minister, no one will not be allowed to leave or access it for 28 days. “All persons residing in a declared infected area shall undergo such medical inspection or examination, as the medical officers of health may direct,” Section 13 (2) of the instrument states.

abagala@ug.nationmedia.com

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