Uganda goes into total lockdown as Covid-19 infections rise

President Yoweri Museveni June 18 issued fresh directives dominated by measures and restrictions that were used to curb the first wave of the Covid-19 outbreak in Uganda. PHOTO/FILE/AFP

What you need to know:

  • Pounded with a 17% flash of accelerated fast spreading Covid-19 cases, Uganda has between May 18 to June 18 also recorded 25, 685 new infections.
  • Former presidential candidate Dr Kizza Besigye described as ''untenable''- a  new lockdown ordered without any social welfare support for a vulnerable population. 

The death of 234 Ugandans due to Covid-19 in the last one month has forced President Museveni to declare a total lockdown in Uganda, six months after the state had made pronouncements of a gradually phased re-opening.

‘‘All cross boundary and inter-district movement of public or private transport is banned for 42 days starting June 18 (10pm local time). The movement of persons needs to be stopped since it is the cornerstone of the rise in cases,’’ President Museveni directed.

Pounded with a 17 per cent flash of accelerated fast-spreading Covid-19 cases, Uganda has between May 18 and June 18 also recorded 25, 685 new infections.

‘‘Only tourists from countries that vaccinated people can come. When we have a situation of about 17 new cases in every 100 tests, then we are in danger,’’ Mr Museveni warned. 

‘’The airport will remain open but we shall not allow any virus to come in,’’ he added.

Resurging at a time when Uganda had started flattening the curve, president Museveni said 42 Covid-19 deaths were announced Friday, coupled with 1,564 new cases.  Uganda's Covid-19 death toll has since shot up to 584, as of June 19. 

‘’There may be more death diagnosed by other means. We are aware that the Covid-19 deaths and cases maybe more than this,’’ he said.

Mr Museveni told the nation in a Friday night televised address that a return to robust measures and a revolutionary approach adopted during the first Covid-19 wave was inevitable.

‘‘When we take measures to prevent, we succeed. This situation was anticipated by government and hence manageable,’’ he said.

A deliberate alteration of protocols to curb the virus will now see curfew times pulled back to 7pm from 9pm.

‘‘Licenses of those flaunting directives should be terminated forever. Police should impose hefty fines and arrest them,’’ he said.  

Over 17 of Uganda’s known fatalities occurred on the night of June 15 after an oxygen supply system failure at Mulago National Referral Hospital. 

‘‘The Oxygen is being produced but the cylinders to distribute it are not enough. We shall increase oxygen supply,’’ Mr Museveni said.

Amidst an oxygen shortage, government Friday commenced installation of a new Oxygen plant that is expected to produce over 7,000 litres per minute in addition to the 2, 083 litres (per minute) of the old plant.

Delayed stipends, salaries, wages and shortages of medical supplies in Ugandan health facilities have already bred protests amongst health workers in some parts of the country.

Slow response

Uganda has 3,793 beds for admission of patients with only 218 of these fitted to the standard of Intensive Care Unit.

‘‘I saw what was happening in Italy and I told these people (government officials) to prepare for 42, 000 beds. They have been slow in response,’’ he said while castigating authorities for not implementing his idea. 

Critics say over 1,000 patients actively admitted- suffering from a disease -now- prevalent in 108 districts is a real test to Uganda’s overdue ailing health system. 

‘‘So you were waiting for Covid-19 in order to do basic things that a proper health system should already have in place?" Maria Ninsiima twitted in response to the health ministry.

However, statistics show the number of infected people in critical condition has slightly fallen from 49% in May 2021 to 47% in June.

To several citizens in a domestically-blockaded Uganda, Covid-19 curbs could relegate masses to extreme poverty levels.

''A new lockdown ordered without any social welfare support for a vulnerable population- that's untenable,'' former presidential candidate Dr Kizza Besigye echoed. 

Better Ugandan vaccine

While Uganda’s test positivity rate has undulated between 14-18% in the last two weeks, just over 1,239,100 people have been tested of Uganda’s 41million population.

As of June 18, Uganda had inoculated 821, 659 citizens, according to government data with high anticipation for more 688, 000 doses expected in the country in early August through the Covax program.

President Museveni on the night also touted a possible breakthrough of a highly effective Ugandan made vaccine.

‘‘Because the virus variants keeps changing, the vaccines we have may not cover the risk. Our vaccine will be better than all these and will be out soon,’’ he said.

Summary of new Covid-19 curbs

  1. Ban on public and private transport restored: Only cargo vehicles can move with a maximum of two people.
  2. Entebbe Airport will remain open.
  3. Markets remain open but vendors urged to camp in markets for 42 days.
  4. Bodabodas barred from carrying passengers save for sick people with letters from local council authorities. Boda Bodas can only move up to 5pm.
  5. Essential sectors that may continue working: Security companies, Medical workers, vet doctors, Utility service providers like mass media, water, electricity etc
  6. Broad sectors to remain open: Agriculture, Industries, Tourism, Cargo transport, health and medical services.
  7. Retail shops remain operational until 7pm.
  8. 7pm-5am curfew introduced.
  9. Leisure hubs like bars, betting centres, casinos, beaches, gyms closed.
  10. Burials restricted to a maximum of 20 people.
  11. Sporting and gaming activities suspended for 42 days.  
  12. Restaurants/hotels remain open.
  13. Political and public gatherings still prohibited.
  14. Factories and construction sites stay open with an option for camping.
  15. Re-opening of learning institutions deferred until after 42 days.
  16. Prayer & worship hubs remain closed for 42 days.
  17. Shopping malls and shopping centres like Kikuubo closed for 42 days.
  18. Mandatory wearing of masks in public space.
  19. Keep a social distance of at least 2metres.
  20.  All measures last 42 days until the situation is reviewed.
  21. All disciplines that remain open must observe government mandated-SOPs.
  22. Office of the Prime Minister to map out special interest groups in need of relief.