President Yoweri Museveni yesterday announced that his government had decided to bring to an end most of the COVID-19 restrictions including reopening schools and social events, even though he acknowledged that there is a marked increase in the number of new cases.
In his New Year’s televised address to the nation, Museveni argued that the decision was based on the fact that more information has been gathered about the disease as opposed to when the pandemic had just struck, but also that the government and the public now has more tools including vaccination, drugs to counter the pandemic, as opposed to running away from it, as was the strategy initially.
Museveni expressed concern that the rapidly spreading Omicron variant, had led to a sharp rise in cases and deaths but that the government believes there are enough tools and knowledge to combat the spread.
One of the strategies, he pointed out, has been the rollout and vigorous promotion of mass vaccination among adults aged 18 years and above, which he said has achieved some level of success.
Museveni reported that close to 9.9 million people have so far received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, representing 45 percent of the targeted 22 million people (those above 18) years that are eligible for vaccination.
In a wide-ranging speech that touched many issues of public concern, Museveni put emphasis on health and the government’s effort to combat the pandemic.
He said the government has so far received vaccines that are enough to vaccinate at least 22 million people.
These include more than 22 million doses of the double dose vaccines as well as more 12m of the single dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine.
He did not say how much of these have been procured with government of Uganda funding but available information shows majority of the vaccines have been donated, with the US accounting for the biggest number of donated vaccines.
Museveni further said his government has been persuaded by advice from scientists that booster jabs are relevant and applicable in Uganda.
He therefore urged all those above 50 years to go to health facilities to receive booster doses.
On school reopening, Museveni said the Jan 10 date earlier set by the Ministry of Education would be upheld. He noted however that in order to avoid stampede and congestion as millions of kids go to schools on Jan, the ministry of education would space the reopening days to ensure one or two classes report to schools.
The reopening of schools has been a critical demand by many stakeholders given that Ugandan children had been out of school for close to two years – the longest period according to UNICEF, that a country has kept it’s children out of school.
Museveni cautioned members of the public to take the war against the pandemic into their own hands by respecting SOPs such as continued wearing of masks and hand-washing or by taking some drugs that have proved effective in treating the disease.
The President said he was aware that new COVID-19 cases and deaths have been reported, but that the need to reopen the economy outweighed the relatively low levels of fetalities.
He cautioned however that should the number of hospitalisations continue and pass 50 percent of the available intensive care beds, the government will reimpose restrictions especially those on public transport and bars.
Here below are some of the relaxed measures.
The transport sector, which has been operating at 50%, will be opened fully, but with the necessary SOPs such as the wearing of masks, full vaccination by both the crew of PSV and the travelers, etc.
The cinema halls and sports events to be allowed to operate with SOPs.
Pre-primary, Primary and Secondary schools will be opened for learners, starting with the 10th of January, 2022. The Ministry of Education and Sports and the Ministry of Health, to work out applicable SOPs and communicate them.
The Performing Arts, Concerts, Bars and Discotheques, will be opened two weeks after the opening of the schools and with SOPs directed by the Ministry of Health.
Curfew will be lifted for everybody at the time of opening for the performing arts but not for bodabodas. The bodabodas will continue to observe the curfew hours of 1900hours to 0530hours (Shaaha emwe y’ekiro to shaaha ikumi n’ emwe z’ekiro).
Some of these measures to be reversed, if hospitalization of Covid-19 patients exceeds 50% in the high dependence and intensive care units bed occupancy.
There are 187 Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds in Government hospitals and 475 High Dependency Unit (HDU) beds 475.