Thank you Dr Aceng and Dr Atwine, but government should pay for quarantine

Saturday March 21 2020

Asuman Bisiika

Asuman Bisiika  

By Asuman Bisiika

Mr Museveni’s address to the nation on the issue of Covid-19, otherwise commonly known as Coronavirus, has been welcomed by Ugandans. The joke in Kampala is that Mr Museveni, for once in a very long time, had all the ears of all Ugandans (without any grumbling).

The feel-good Museveni and the relatively well managed communication on the Covid-19 pandemic has been credited to Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, the minister of Health and her Permanent Secretary Dr Diana Atwine.

I have met Dr Atwine very many times. And if it may please them gods, I would like someone to organise me a meeting with Dr Aceng. The reader is right to ask: For what reason does a villagois (Fench for villager) want to meet the minister of Health? I will explain.

Ugandans (you know Ugandans, do you not?), have been comparing Mr Museveni’s speech with Canadian Prime Minister Justine Trudeau’s speech. In his speech, Mr Museveni never offered any social or economic stimulant package to mitigate the situation. Canada’s Trudeau waved the key to the national treasury and offered almost all.

So, dear reader, the reason I would like to meet the minister of Health is that I would like to lobby her to convince Mr Museveni to issue a directive ordering the national Treasury to pay the cost of the compulsory quarantining of Ugandan nationals returning home from abroad. The non-nationals and foreign residents can pick their own bills.

But before I meet Dr Aceng, let me share a testimony of a Ugandan national who has been at what seems to be the only quarantine centre in Entebbe. The quarantine centre is Central Inn Hotel in Entebbe. Since one pays for their self-quarantine, it means one foots the hotel bills (more or less). And for the hotel, it is just business.


According to testimonies of Ugandan nationals who passed through the hotel (as a quarantine centre), a room at Central Inn Hotel is $100. One is supposed to be quarantined for 14 days; costing them $1,400 (more than Shs5m). A half litre of mineral water is Shs4,000.

Worse, there are no health workers to check on the inmates; rendering the whole exercises as an ordinary hotel check-in-check-out matter: Except that this one is compulsory.

If the Ministry of Health offered to pick the cost of quarantining Ugandan nationals, I am sure hotel facilities would be available for use as quarantine centres. And Dr Atwine would not be lobbying hotel owners to offer their facilities as quarantine centres.

Dr Aceng and Dr Atwine, I implore you to ask for the money and put it to good use. You should not be shy that Ugandans may portray you as the locust guys in the Ministry of Agriculture. But to think that Uganda will go through this coronavirus pandemic without spending money is not tenable.

Anyway, before I meet the minister for Health, I would like to share the testimony of Dr Jimmy Spire Ssentongo on returning home from his long sojourn in the UK.

“We protest being herded at this expensive place without any alternatives for those who may not be able to afford or willing to be subjected to the injustice (yet expected to pay cash before ordering for anything). What kind of quarantine is this where there is no care whether we infect each other at all!

There isn’t even a single health officer here! We are just dumped here to spend on their hotel services. People haven’t even taken a shower in 36 hours! This is more about making money than quarantining; and we refuse to support the heartless scheme.”

Mr Bisiika is the executive editor of East African Flagpost.