Gov’t eases lockdown, more business allowed to operate normally

The health ministry has revised regulations on mass gatherings. The number of people allowed to congregate or gather in a place has been increased from 70 to not more than 200, but must adhere to COVID-19 prevention guidelines, including a two-metre social distance, wearing face masks and should have handwashing facilities.

The regulation on gatherings was among other measures announced by health minister Dr Jane Ruth Aceng during a press briefing yesterday, at her home in Muyenga, Kampala.

Others include reopening of cinemas, gyms, massage parlours, casinos, gaming outlets and mobile markets, which have been closed for over eight months.

Additionally, political candidates have been advised against use of open-roof cars and waving to people while moving. Aceng said such acts attract mass gatherings, which may be more than 200 people with no social distancing, thus causing a high risk of COVID-19 spread.

The guidelines, which will apply to churches and the ongoing political rallies come a day after the kick-off of presidential campaigns expected to stretch for two months across the country.

CINEMAS, GYMS, MASSAGE PARLOURS AND CASINOS TO RESUME OPERATIONS

During the press briefing, Aceng announced that the Government has also allowed cinemas, gyms, massage parlours, casinos and gaming outlets to resume operations.

Aceng said these business outlets, including the mobile markets, will be allowed to reopen on November 14. However, they will be required to strictly operate under the COVID-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs).

Aceng said the move was prompted by the notable compliance to the SOPs in most schools and places of worship, and the ongoing epidemiological assessments of the outbreak, which has found no increase in transmission because of opening these institutions.

Schools for candidate classes and places of worship were reopened on September 20. In regard to casinos and gaming outlets, the hours of operation have been restricted to between 6:30am and 7:00pm.

“The local governments, in consultation with the National Gaming and Lotteries Board, will inspect the gaming and casino places before they can operate. Continued monitoring will also be conducted to ensure adherence to SOPs,”

Aceng said.

Since mobile markets tend to attract large gatherings, Aceng said the trade and industry ministry has developed SOPs that will be given to the mobile market operators before they start business. However, bars and discotheques will remain closed.

In the meantime, Aceng advised owners of bars to explore other businesses, such as restaurants attached to their premises, since these were allowed to operate.

“In countries that have proceeded to a second lockdown phase, bars and discotheques have been identified as focal areas of spread. Considering the phase of the epidemic Uganda is in, with rising cases and deaths in urban areas, the suspension on bars and discotheques will continue,” she said.

As of today, Uganda has a cumulative total of 14,574 confimed cases of COVID-19. 7,771 have so far recovered while 133 have died.

There are registered spikes in COVID-19 infections in the districts of Kiryadongo and Kikuube, while Kampala, West Nile, Elgon and Karamoja regions remain the main hotspots. The four days leading to November 6, 2020, the country recorded its highest number of COVID-19- related deaths.

Fourteen deaths were recorded within a period of four days. She said 13 of the deaths were male and 90% were in the category of the vulnerable population — 50 years and above.

“With the current trend of infected cases increasing daily, the health system is overwhelmed and overstretched,” she warned.

So far, 971 health workers have contracted COVID-19 and nine have died.

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Patrick Luwagga is the editorial director of cross-platform content for UGANDANZ. He works across the newsroom and with business partners to drive and develop ambitious editorial projects that include digital journalism, video, data research, polling, live events, and thought-leadership series that are supported by outside underwriting. As executive director, he is responsible for the creation of Political news section, prior to joining UGANDANZ, Patrick was the chief editor for the national weekly news magazine of Kasese Times. In that role, he covered several presidential elections, wrote and produced two television documentaries, and was a regular commentator on television and radio news programs. Patrick was born in Masaka and grew up in Kasese. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Makerere University where he was a Knight Foundation journalism fellow.