Evolution and changes to Covid-19 restrictions since March 2020

Closed shops downtown Kampala after President Museveni announced a lockdown due to Covid-19 in March last 2020. PHOTO / FILE  

What you need to know:

  • On July 30, 2021, government eased some of the restrictions and allowed the reopening of some of the sectors, but bars, discotheque, cinemas and music shows and concerts remained closed.

On March 18, 2020, President Museveni made his maiden speech following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The focus was on giving citizens guidelines on how to avoid contracting the deadly virus that had claimed the lives of more than 200,000 and sent most of Europe into lockdowns aimed at reducing the spread of the virus. Mr Museveni then unveiled 13 measures aimed at curbing the spread of the disease.

The measures included temporary closure of all education institutions, 32-day suspension of religious gatherings, including open air prayers and services in mosques and churches, 32 day ban on political and cultural functions, including public rallies,  32-day ban on out-bound travel by Ugandan to Category One countries. Category One countries were those that had the highest number of infections at the time, mandatory quarantine in a designated place for Ugandans returning from abroad, introduction of mandatory standard operating procedures (SOPs) in factories, hotels, markets and taxi and bus parks, 32-day suspension of weddings involving more than 10 people, limitation of numbers at funeral to 10 people, 32-day suspension of weekly markets, mandatory SOPS for operators of public transport,  closure of bars, discotheques, cinemas and music shows.

During the same address, Mr Museveni encouraged Ugandans to eat well with a view of strengthening their body defence systems and also conduct themselves in a hygienic and enlightened manner. He urged the citizens not to cough or sneeze in public and regularly wash their hands with soap, regularly sanitise and disinfect surfaces such as tables and door handles.

Four days after the maiden speech, Mr Museveni made another televised address in which he unveiled additional measures that he said were aimed at tightening preventive measures. The new measures included prohibition of entry into Uganda by air, land or sea. Only cargo planes and vessels allowed, confinement of entry into Uganda to drivers and crews of cargo transport vehicles and vessels.
The new measures, Mr Museveni said, would be in force for a period of 32 days.

Three days after the second address, Mr Museveni gave his third address and it came with additional measures, including suspension of public transport, including boda bodas for 14 days,  limiting to three passengers in private vehicles, prohibition of trucks, delivery vans and pick-up trucks from ferrying passengers, suspension of trade in nonfood items such as clothes and shoes in markets, and introduction of work from home sessions for non-essential staff of government ministries, agencies and departments

On March 30, 2020, Mr Museveni gave what was the fourth address in 12 days. That came with additional restrictions. The new measures were prohibition of all people-to-people movements,  suspension of operations of shopping malls and arcades, closure of all nonfood shops and stores except those dealing in agricultural, veterinary and pharmaceutical products, introduction of SOPs in supermarkets,  introduction of SOPS at established food markets,  vendors ordered to stay in the markets for 14 days,  closure of saloons, lodges and garages,  factory owners directed to maintain crucial employees in camps around the factories, construction sites directed to encamp workers, limitation of the number of people using cargo trains, planes, lorries or pick up trucks on only technically required people or crew,  Uganda Revenue Authority  directed not to close businesses on account of not paying taxes, prohibition of gatherings of more than five persons, introduction of 7pm to dawn curfew except for cargo planes, lorries and pick-up trucks, prohibition of movement of boda bodas and tukutukus beyond 2pm,  introduction of system that allowed Resident District Commissioners  to grant special permission for vehicles to move during emergencies such as child birth, placement of government cars that do not belong to the Uganda People’s Defence Forces, police, Prisons or Uganda Wildlife Authority in a pool under the district health officer to help with emergencies,  and government workers ordered to stay at home.

Relaxation of restrictions
That brought to more than 35 the number of restrictions that had been put in place to contain the spread of the virus. There were no changes to those restrictions until May 4 when the President made his sixth address on matters regarding the virus.

That marked the beginning of the relaxations of some of the restrictions that had been put in place.
Among those that were allowed to open were wholesalers and hardware shops to sell factory goods; motor vehicle workshops, metal and wood workshops, insurance providers, the Uganda Law Society, restaurants to provide takeaway services. Warehouses, buses owned or hired by employers.

Workers could now cycle or walk to work or be dropped off by their employers. There was no longer need for the employers to encamp them in or near the workplaces.

Public transport returns
The seventh address that was held on May 18 also came with further lifting of some of the restrictions.

Shops selling general merchandise that were not located in shopping malls were allowed to open, vendors, who had encamped in the markets, were allowed to return home, and public transport was allowed to return, albeit carrying half their normal capacity, but boda bodas were still barred from carrying passengers.

It was also announced that schools would reopen to candidate classes within a fortnight, although that would be done in a phased manner.

Restaurants were also allowed to reopen to the public for as long as clients observed SOPs. Private cars were also allowed to return to the roads, but not allowed to carry more than three people.

Curfew retained
Mr Museveni’s eighth address held on June 22 came with news that the 7pm to 6.30 am and the ban on ferrying passengers by boda boda, entry and travel outside Uganda would remain in place, but it also came with further relaxation of some of the restrictions.

For example, the number of people who could travel in a private car was increased to four for as long as they wore face masks and ban on internal movement between districts was also lifted.

Government also allowed the repatriation of bodies for burial in Uganda, but that was pegged to several conditions, including ensuring that the body was placed in appropriate packaging and placed in a zinc-lined coffin and an outer wooden box.

Second lockdown
Whereas most of the restrictions were later lifted, Mr Museveni was in June 2021 forced to order the closure of schools and suspend none essential travel. The new lockdown measures also banned mass gatherings. Limits were once again placed on the numbers allowed at weddings and funeral and only vehicles transporting goods, tourists and essential workers were allowed to operate.

On July 30, 2021, government eased some of the restrictions and allowed the reopening of some of the sectors, but bars, discotheque, cinemas and music shows and concerts remained closed.


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