President Yoweri Museveni has Wednesday ordered for all education institutions and all places of prayer in the country to be closed for one month, to help the country better prepare for the now inevitable outbreak of the deadly Coronavirus (COVID19).
The closure for schools, Museveni announced in a national address, will take effect starting this Friday March 20th, 2020 at midday.
For the places of worship, the closure takes immediate effect.
Uganda has not registered a single case of Coronavirus, even though cases have been confirmed in four of the country’s five neighbors.
In total, 5068 education institutions including both government and private; pre-primary, primary, secondary and tertiary institutions will be shut down.
The decision according to the President, was arrived at during Monday’s cabinet meeting which he chaired.
About 15million young Ugandans are currently attending these education institutions.
Museveni noted that rapid spread of the highly contagious Coronavirus will be limited if these learners are sent back to their less crowded homes.
“It is wise that we temporarily remove all these concentration points by closing all schools,” he said.
“The 42million Ugandans are divided into 8million homesteads. Once these learners are dispersed into these homesteads, each one homestead will have an average of 1.5 persons.”
Cabinet also decided to close down all places of worship including Churches and Mosques, those in open spaces and those enclosed.
The ban for these, Museveni said, will take immediate effect, so that there no room is left for mistakes.
“This is simply logical because, what if a person that doesn’t have a (Coronavirus) case today is infected tomorrow Thursday 19th, during the “last service? How would God forgive us if we made that mistake to allow one more gathering? “Museveni said.
“When it comes to health, it is better to be a coward and be on the side of caution. Prayers will continue but in homes. God is in all places. Yes, we have been praying together, but these now pose danger and logically we cannot insist.”
President Museveni yesterday met with Religious leaders under the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda.
The clerics have since been advised to follow the lead of Pope Francis by utilizing their radio and television stations to preach to their followers.
The President also announced a travel ban on all Ugandans leaving the country going to any one the countries that have been placed in the first category of the most affected countries by the Ministry of Health
These countries are; Italy, France, South Korea, China, USA, UK, Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden Belgium, Spain, Norway Austria, Malaysia, Pakistan and San Marino.
“With immediate effect, we ban all outbound movement by Ugandans to or through these countries for 32 days,” the president announced.
“Foreigners going to these countries are free to do so provided that they don’t intend to come back here within the prohibited time.”
“We extend our sympathies to those countries and commend them for fighting on behalf of the human race.”
While Ugandans who are abroad cannot be barred from coming in the country, Museveni emphasized the Health Ministry’s earlier position that these will have to undergo a mandatory quarantine in a designated place, at their own cost.
“If they want to avoid this inconvenience, they can choose to sit out this storm and remain temporarily in their countries of abode until the problem is over.”.
The President also announced a one-month ban on what he termed as “the Uganda style weddings that bring together a pentagon of groups.”
Such weddings which attract family members from the bride and groom, former school mates, neighbors and friends will have to be postponed, because according to the president, they are a source of great danger.
“It is therefore decided that weddings of this type should be postponed for 32 days. However, if the couples are in a hurry, they could go for a purely scientific wedding; only involving the core stakeholders who are the bridegroom, the bride, the best man, the assistant to the bride and the priest. The number has to be less than 10 people. The scientific marriage could then later at an appropriate time, be followed by the Uganda style one.”
All forms of Political or cultural public meetings, rallies, conferences and elections among others have also been banned with immediate effect for 32 days.
Other places such as factories, markets, taxi parks that attract large crowds will continue to operate but within standard operating procedures.
These will need to strictly follow the Ministry of Health Guidelines which include mandatory hand washing for everybody that enters those places, those with symptoms to be denied access, and deploying temperature monitors.
Museveni said government is taking all these measures in consideration of the fact that many Ugandans belong in the group of people with pre-existing conditions, making them more vulnerable to the virus.
“Although the (Coronavirus) kill ratio is not very high compared for instance to Ebola…the real danger is for old people who are 70 years and above and people with other diseases like TB, HIV Cancer and diabetes. It is these that will be very sick or even die,” he said.
Since we have a large number of people with HIV, (1.4million) Diabetes (800,000), hypertension (4.8 million) TB (100,000 per year); we must do everything possible to ensure this enemy doesn’t find dry grass piled and ready for ignition.