Museveni Pegs Easing of Lockdown to Universal Use of Free Face Masks

President Yoweri Museveni

Uganda’s President has announced new measures to ease the lockdown, including reopening of regulated public transport – limited passengers and every Ugandan wearing a mask in public.

President Yoweri Museveni said on Monday that government is planning to distribute free face masks to all Ugandans above the age of 6.

The masks will take two weeks to be ready, he said, adding that all the new measures towards reopening are preconditioned to the availability of masks to the public which will only be after June 2. 

“The masks are to be distributed through the Local Council system. We shall provide one mask per person. They must be worn all the time when you are in public,” Museveni said.

By May 16, Uganda had tested 87,832 people since the first case was reported on March 29. At least 227 people (98 Ugandans) were confirmed to have Covid-19 and 63 have recovered. 73% of Uganda’s Covid cases are cargo truck drivers majority of whom are foreign nationals.

Museveni said there will be regulated opening of public transport – minibuses, buses and taxis – provided they carry only half of their  passenger capacity. This, he said, is to address overcrowding. 

“The safest mode of transport is bicycling, motorcycles, walking or a private car,” Museveni said.

However, in the border districts, public means of transport remain restricted.

He explained that this is because there are challenges in the neighboring countries and government fears there is a risk of spreading infection given the high cases in Uganda’s neighbors. 

“Many people walk through the border. If the public means resume, somebody can sneak in, get on a bus and in no time he’s in Kampala”.

Museveni has prohibited brokers and taxi touts who usually operate in major towns, drawing passengers into taxis and buses.

In the case of boda bodas and tuk tuks, carrying passengers is still restricted due to the difficulties in observing social distance.

In other measures, shops for general merchandise will also be allowed to open. However, shops that operate in shopping malls/arcades as well as food markets will remain closed. This is because in these places, it is impossible to observe distance, he said. 

Shop operators will be required to observe social distancing by ensuring buyers stand 4 meters from each other.

“Market women that have been sleeping in markets will be allowed to go home and come back daily if they want to,” the President said.

Bars, night clubs, gyms, saunas, swimming pools, hair salons are to stay closed due to social distance limitations.

Uganda’s borders and the main airport will remain closed.

The President also said schools will only open for candidate classes – P7, S4, S6 and finalists in the tertiary institutions. This will allow for adequate space to observe social distance. There will be no First Term exams and teachers are focus preparing the end of final exams.

The daily curfew (7pm to 6:30am) remains in place for another 21 days.

Hotels, food restaurants will be allowed to open as long as the clients observe social distance and there is no use of Air Conditioning.

After June 2, private cars are to be allowed to move as long as each car does not exceed 3 people.

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