Bars and places of worship are some of the fastest routes through which Covid-19 infections spread easily and that is why they will remain closed after easing of the lockdown.
The remarks were made by Dr Chris Baryomunsi, the ICT and National Guidance minister, last Saturday at the Uganda Media Centre in Kampala where he was expounding on President Museveni’s Covid-19 address that was televised last Friday.
“Someone sent me a message saying they saw me (during the presidential address on television) sitting next to the President and mentioned I am among the people misleading the President and that is why he didn’t open churches and other places of prayer,” Dr Baryomunsi stated.
“All of us want to pray in the churches, mosques and in other places of worship but then there is a need for balance. If we allow people to congregate and they pray, sing loudly and sometimes forcefully, these channels will enable the easy spread of the virus from an infected person to other members of the congregation,” he added.
Dr Baryomunsi stressed that the government was not entirely against the idea of prayers.
“That is why the President in his announcement mentioned that religious leaders can continue conducting them virtually with a maximum of 10 people allowed to lead the service while other people follow the service from their respective homes.
So, we are not against praying, but, the question is, what can be opened now and delayed a bit so that we are better prepared to handle the pandemic?” he added.
Bars were among the other businesses the President said should remain closed, and directed enforcement agencies to arrest and charge both revellers and owners who breach the directive.
According to Dr Baryomunsi, this is not because the President has a problem with people who take alcohol.
“If you are in a bar and you take that bitter thing and you are told to wash your hands with soap or use a sanitiser, put on a mask or social distance, how sure are we that you will easily comply with these measures or lose a sense of judgment along the way and fail to follow a respective SOP (standard operating procedure)? he said.
Dr Baryomunsi explained that the President knows the economic importance of some of these businesses but is afraid that some of them can easily become networks through which infections easily spread.
Dr Baryomunsi’s remarks come at a time when the government is continuously facing pressure to open all places of worship for the faithful to seek God’s grace during these challenging times of Covid-19 pandemic.
In last week’s zoom session titled ‘Protecting Freedom of Worship: Reflections on closure of places of worship during Covid-19,’ five panelists calling themselves defenders of religion reasoned that the closure of places of worship amounts to infringement of the citizens’ rights to worship as provided for in the Constitution.
“Article 23 of the Constitution talks about the need to resist anyone who violates the Constitution. Let’s help each other and recognise that what is going on is a violation of the right to religion,” Mr Simon Ssenyonga, a human rights lawyer, said.
“Many people don’t have access to television sets or the Internet to follow church online since that is the only way church is being conducted. Those are the people we are talking about,” he added.
During his address, President Museveni said places of worship will remain closed and reviewed after another 60 days. The President lifted inter-district travel ban on private cars and allowed taxis, buses and boda boda cyclists to operate at 50 per cent capacity.