PRESIDENT MUSEVENI ANNOUNCES NEW ANTI-CORONAVIRUS MEASURES
Live reporting by Joseph Kizza
(Scroll down page for earlier updates)
9:32pm | 'Go home my people and lock your doors!'
President Museveni concludes his speech by reminding Ugandans to remember to wash their hands with soap and water, avoid touching soft openings on their faces as well as heed all the announced measures to avoid contracting the deadly disease.
"The crucial point is the stopping of the epidemic. I do not want us to lose millions of our vulnerable people to this wholly avoidable epidemic just on account of indiscipline. What is the indiscipline?"
He then reads out a biblical extraction from the Book of Isaiah 26:20 shared to him recently by a sheikh.
"Go home my people and lock your doors! Hide yourselves for a little while until the lord's anger has passed," reads the verse.
9:26pm | Govt to distribute relief food
The President adds that the measures that have been put in place to curb the coronavirus have put many people put of work, especially those who lead hand-to-mouth livelihoods.
After properly identifying these people, Museveni adds, government will distribute food to them in the form of maize flour, beans, powder milk, sugar, salt, etc.
He also warns "opportunistic and irresponsible politicians" who distribute food to people for "cheap popularity" to stop doing so as they are putting the lives of people at risk of contracting the virus.
"Anybody found doing so will be arrested and charged with attempted murder," Museveni warns.
9:20pm | Curfew starts 7pm on Tuesday
President Museveni declares that gatherings of more than five people are prohibited.
Also, except for cargo planes, lorries, pick-ups and trains, starting on March 31 (Tuesday) at 7pm, there will be a curfew across the whole of Uganda - and this will last 14 days. "All other movements should stop. Let people stay indoors in their homes except for the cargo transporters," cautions Museveni.
Take note that the exemption of cargo transporters does not apply to boda bodas and rickshaws (tuk tuks).
The President says that for some "unavoidable health" issues such as mothers in child birth or very sick people, permission can be sought from the RDC to use private transport to take such a person to hospital.
By the way, government vehicles that do not belong to UPDF, Police, Prisons or UWA are to be deployed at the district health offices, including the divisions of Kampala for health emergency situations.
Government workers should also stay at home for the 14 days, except for the army, Police, health, electricity, water and telephone workers.
"We are going to discuss with banks, electricity and water companies in connection with the loans and bills" to loosen their grip on non-fulfillment of payments during this difficult period, Museveni added.
9:12pm | Supermarkets to remain open, but . . .
The President declares that supermarkets should remain open but while following standard operational procedures (SOPs) that should restrict the number of buyers entering and leaving at a time.
"A lot of people can be infected by handling the unsterilized trolleys within the supermarkets," he says.
The other additional measure is that established food markets in Kampala and other towns should continue to be open. But the square distance of four metres must be observed. Also, the sellers must not go homw durign the 14 day and should arrange to stay nearby for the fortnight.
Factory owners should arrange for essential workers to camp near their premises.
Saloons, lodges and garages must also be closed for 14 days, starting April 1.
Construction sites should continue only if they are able to encamp their crucial workers. Short of this, they should suspend further activity.
. URA, UNRA and funeral services should also carry on with operations.
These employers should also find ways of encamping some of their workers. They can also get a special exemption from the resident district commissioner (RDC) with the concurrence of the district medical officer, says the President.
Meanwhile, cargo transport within Uganda and between Uganda and the outside must continue but only with the restricted numbers. For instance, lorries must not have more than three occupants. Cargo planes must have only the crew.
9:06pm | MORE MEASURES: Shopping malls, non-food shops suspended
Shopping malls, arcades an hardware shops, which "gather alot of people to sell and buy non-food items", have also been suspended for 14 days, announces President Museveni. The suspension takes effect on April 1 (Wednesday).
Additionally, all non-food shops (stores) must also close. Only shops (stores) selling food, agricultural products, veterinary products, detergents and pharmaceuticals should remain open.
9:01pm | MORE MEASURES: People to people movement banned
Here are the additional measures.
First, government has banned all people to people movement by everybody including those using their private vehicles, bodabodas, rickshaws (tuk tuks), etc.
This has been done because some private car owners have turned their vehicles into taxis, transporting travellers from, say Kampala to Jinja, for an "exorbitant" sh50,000.
Even if the private car owners abode by the regulations, it would not guarantee the spread of the virus.
This ban on movement of private cars will take effect starting 10pm today (March 30) and will last 14 days.
8:56pm | 'Better to take bitter medicine of maximum restrictions'
After careful consideration, it is better we err on the side of precaution than to repeat the mistakes of the nations that have been greatly affected by the pandemic, says the President.
He says that currently, as many as 839 individuals are under quarantine. "Even those that are alleged to have escaped quarantine have now come back."
The President says that it is better to take the "bitter medicine of maximum restrictions".
8:52pm | Confirmed cases: 31 Ugandans, 2 Chinese
The 33 confirmed coronavirus cases in Uganda include 31 Ugandans and two Chinese nationals.
"Almost all of them have come from Dubai in United Arab Emirates (UAE), Europe, USA and Afghanistan. Only three received the virus from the importers," says the President.
8:49pm | Uganda's measures against COVID-19 spread
Museveni re-echoes the measures that Uganda has already taken to curb the spread of the virus.
These include the closure of schools and places of worship, as well as the suspension of night clubs and bars.
"Ugandan-style" weddings were also suspended, as were public burials, sports events and music shows.
Public transport has also been suspended.
He says that following the announcement of the initial measures, officials learnt of gaps caused by some people were "not obeying these measures and that, for instance, the returnees from abroad, from the high risk countries, were escaping from the quarantine even when it was mandatory".
"These gaps were undermining the strategy of denying the virus the fuel that it could ignite and sustain its expansion by ensuring that there is no match-box and there is no dry grass ─ no virus and no concentrated masses," says Museveni.
Uganda, therefore, stopped all passengers coming into Uganda by air, land or water. Uganda also prohibited pedestrians from coming into the country from neighbouring nations. Cargo aircraft and vehicles were, however, allowed to continue coming through.
Later, public transport was suspended and market places scaled down to only food sellers.
8:38pm | President Museveni starts address
The President has began his address and starts off by talking about the way COVID-19 is spread, by sometimes careless and inconsiderate people.
The first mode of transmission is when a sick person sneezes or coughs near you, emitting moisture.
The second way of transmission is when an infected individual pollutes surfaces and you touch the same surface and then to your soft openings on the face.
The virus cannot go through normal intact skin of the body, clarifies the President. He adds that the virus can attack people with other health complications such as HIV, cancer, etc.
8:28pm | Kudos to the brave men and women on the frontline of pandemic
Every single man and woman involved in the treating of coronavirus patients deserves praise for putting their own lives at risk to save that of another. Many have died in the line of duty as the pandemic continues to claim life after life.
There are thousands of these brave medical officers around the world - here in Uganda, in neighouring Kenya, across Africa and the world at large.
Thank you for your service.
Thank you Nurse Kirimi working at 🇰🇪Kenyatta University Teaching Referral & Research Hospital from everyone at @WHO! She and many other brave Kenyan health workers are on the front line in the fight against #COVID19. pic.twitter.com/5pvOeaFMsK— WHO African Region (@WHOAFRO) March 30, 2020
8:23pm | Hang in there
Meanwhile, I know I mentioned 8pm earlier on this page, but we are still awaiting the presidential address.
Hang in there . . .
8:15pm | Latest in Uganda: All 82 tested samples return negative
There is some positive news coming in from the health ministry.
We learn that a total of 82 samples studied at the Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) in Entebbe has returned negative for COVID-19. As of Monday, as many as 1,271 samples have been tested for the deadly virus. Only 33 of these have returned positive.
Meanwhile, the ministry says in its statement that a sample from a suspected case of coronavirus in Budaka district in eastern Uganda that came through an alert on social media has been sent to UVRI for testing. It is understood the individual has been isolated, pending the results.
A total of 82 samples tested NEGATIVE for #COVID19, today. The total number of #COVID19 confirmed cases stands at 33 in Uganda. #STAYSAFEUG pic.twitter.com/bDrTrOyD7X— Ministry of Health- Uganda (@MinofHealthUG) March 30, 2020
7:59pm | 'Health systems strained' - WHO chief
Earlier today, World Health Organisation (WHO) director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus addressed a media briefing on the coronavirus pandemic.
"COVID-19 pandemic is straining health systems in many countries," he said.
The WHO chief said the rapidly increasing demand on health facilities and health workers threatens to leave some health systems overstretched and unable to operate effectively.
"Previous outbreaks have demonstrated that when health systems are overwhelmed, deaths due to vaccine-preventable and treatable conditions increase dramatically," he told reporters.
Here is more on what Ghebreyesus said at the press conference:
Even though we're in the midst of a crisis, essential health services must continue. Babies are still being born, vaccines must still be delivered, and people still need life-saving treatment for a range of other diseases.
WHO has published guidelines to help countries balance the demands of responding directly to COVID-19, while maintaining essential health services.
This includes a set of targeted, immediate actions to reorganize and maintain access to high-quality essential health services, including routine vaccination; care during pregnancy and childbirth; treatment for infectious and noncommunicable diseases and mental health conditions; blood services, and more.
That includes ensuring an adequate health workforce to deal with the many health needs other than COVID-19.
For example, we're pleased by the 20 000 health workers in the UK who have offered to return to work, and that other countries such as the Russian Federation are involving medical students and trainees in the response.
To help countries manage the surge in COVID-19 cases while maintaining essential services, WHO has also published a detailed, practical manual on how to set up and manage treatment centres for COVID-19.
7:48pm | World athletics championships moving to 2022
Relatedly, the 2021 world athletics championships in Eugene, Oregon (USA) will be shifted to 2022 to accommodate the re-arranged Tokyo Olympics, World Athletics said Monday.
AFP reports that the announcement came immediately after Olympics organisers said the 2020 Tokyo Games - postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic - will now take place on July 23-August 8, 2021.
That means the world athletics championships that were scheduled to take place in Eugene on August 6-15, 2021, can no longer be held on those dates.
Well, the impact of the pandemic continues to be felt in the sporting world!
7:41pm | Postponed Tokyo Olympics to open July 23 next year
Meanwhile, the Tokyo Olympics will begin on July 23 next year, organisers said on Monday, after the coronavirus forced the historic decision to postpone the Games until 2021.
The announcement comes less than a week after organisers were forced to delay the Games under heavy pressure from athletes and sports federations as the global outbreak worsened. Read the story below by AFP.
"The Olympics will be held from July 23 to August 8, 2021. The Paralympics will be held from August 24 to September 5," Tokyo 2020 chief Yoshiro Mori told reporters at a hastily arranged news conference.
Only hours earlier, Mori had said he expected a decision from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) during the course of the week.
But on Monday evening, he said an emergency teleconference had been held with the IOC and the date finalised.
"We agreed that the timing of the event will be in summer as originally planned, considering the coronavirus... and a certain amount of time needed for preparations, selection and qualification of athletes," he added.
In a statement, the IOC said the new dates would give health authorities and organisers "the maximum time to deal with the constantly changing landscape and the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic."
The decision would also cause "minimum" disruption to the international sports calendar, the body said.
The Tokyo 2020 Olympics were due to open on July 24 this year and run for 16 days, but the coronavirus pandemic forced the first peacetime postponement of the Games.
The IOC and Japan had for weeks insisted the show could go on but the rapid spread of COVID-19 prompted growing disquiet among athletes and sporting federations.
The Olympics was the highest-profile sporting casualty of the coronavirus that has wiped out fixtures worldwide and all but halted professional sport.
In a near-simultaneous announcement on Monday, World Athletics said it would now move its world championships, which had been due to take place in Eugene, Oregon on August 6-15 next year, to 2022.
7:34pm | Coronavirus death toll
The global death tally of the coronavirus pandemic stands at 34,000. This is about 4.6% of the over 700,000 people who have been infected thus far.
At 33 confirmed cases so far, Uganda has not registered any COVID-19 death.
7:28pm | IGAD: Unified regional response to coronavirus pandemic
On Monday, President Yoweri Museveni and his fellow heads of state of Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Sudan and South Sudan interfaced virtually for a meeting whose main agenda was the ubiquitous coronavirus.
The summit of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) was videoconferenced, with the participating leaders staying put in their respective nations to discuss the challenges the region is facing in managing the global pandemic.
In attendance was Museveni, Uhuru Kenyatta (Kenya), Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed (Somalia), PM Abiy Ahmed Ali (Ethiopia), Ismail Omar Guelleh (Djibouti), PM Abdalla Hamdok (Sudan) and Vice-President Riek Machar (South Sudan) represented Salva Kiir.
Connected virtually, they agreed that collective leadership as a means of withstanding the effects of COVID-19 is crucial. It is understood the IGAD member states agreed to forge a joint approach to arrest the spread of the disease.
President Museveni briefed his fellow leaders on the measures Uganda has taken to curb the spread of the deadly virus.
In a series of tweets after the meeting, Museveni talked of how he had "expressed solidarity with my colleagues and assured them that we can defeat this disease".
"I also advised that the movement of cargo across the region be allowed to proceed, albeit under Standard Operating Procedures. I urged that all countries continue to facilitate the sectors of industry and agriculture such that we do not run out of food or essentials," said President Museveni.
Museveni and co tasked the IGAD secretariat with formulating a regional response to COVID-19 that adopts a "whole-of-government approach". They also agreed to ramp up the sharing of information sharing, including tracking of infected persons.
According to Kenya's State House, the regional leaders agreed to "direct their relevant agencies to enhance cooperation in border control and management, with a view of ensuring safety along common borders and guarantee movement of cargo".
Talking about their meeting on Twitter, Ethiopian Premier Abiy Ahmed underlined that their "burgeoning industries, like tourism, are being impacted already", and that "individually we are not well prepared to overcome the consequences of the virus on our health systems and the long term impact on our economies".
Therefore, unity is very important to the region's survival, Abiy added.
"Seeking support together, providing needed materials that each of us have an advantage over, and exchanging experiences closely, is vital to our survival.
"The economic progress that each of our countries (has) made is at risk and the only way we can overcome is through collective leadership and coordinated responses. I reiterated that we need to remain hopeful and consciously work together," said the Ethiopian leader.
7:13pm | COVID-19: Latest global developments
Here are the latest developments in the coronavirus crisis (compiled by AFP):
More than 700,000 cases
More than 727,080 cases of infection and 34,610 deaths have been recorded in 183 countries and territories since the epidemic started in China in December, according to an AFP tally compiled at 1100 GMT Monday based on official sources.
Italy has 10,779 deaths and has recorded 97,689 cases, Spain 7,340 deaths out of 85,195 cases, mainland China 3,304 deaths and 81,470 cases, Iran 2,757 deaths and 41,495 cases and France 2,606 fatalities and 40,174 cases.
A Greek woman aged in her 70s became the first person to die of COVID-19 on the Greek Aegean island of Lesbos, where the overcrowded Moria migrant camp is based.
Moscow on Monday started a lockdown of indefinite duration and several regional authorities followed a request from Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin to make similar preparations. Russia has so far reported 1,534 cases and eight deaths.
In Nigeria, where 97 cases have been declared, the cities of Abuja and Lagos enter total confinement on Monday evening for at least 14 days.
More than 3.4 billion people in nearly 80 countries or territories have been called on or forced by the authorities to stay at home, around 43 percent of the world population, according to a count based on an AFP database.
Chinese masks for France
France continued to take delivery of masks via an airlift from China to cope with an acute shortage. After a first delivery on Sunday, France expects to receive a billion masks over 14 weeks.
Chloroquine for hospitals
The US Food and Drug Administration on Sunday authorised use of the anti-malarial drug chloroquine and its derivative hydroxychloroquine for use in hospitals as a treatment against the new coronavirus. It will not be available for the general public.
Oil prices plummet
Oil prices plunged in Asian trade to 17-year lows, with the US benchmark West Texas Intermediate falling 5.3 percent, while international benchmark Brent crude was off 6.5 percent at $23.
British airline EasyJet said on Monday it had grounded its entire fleet for an indefinite period.
Wimbledon probably cancelled
Vice President of the German tennis federation Dirk Hordorff predicted in an interview with France's "Equipe" newspaper the cancellation of Wimbledon, which is scheduled for June 29-July 12. He said organisers would make the official announcement on Wednesday.
US: '100,000 to 200,000 deaths'
One of President Donald Trump's top medical advisors, Anthony Fauci, predicted that the virus could possibly result in 100,000 to 200,000 deaths in the United States.
Trump extended until April 30 recommendations for social distancing.
Britain: six months before normal
Britain's deputy chief medical officer Jenny Harries warned Sunday that life may not return to normal for six months or more, and that if emergency measures are lifted too quickly, the coronavirus virus could surge once again.
6:57pm | What do we know so far?
On Sunday, Uganda learnt that the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the country has risen to 33, after the confirmation of three new cases. The trio were among the 206 people, mainly returning from the Gulf and Europe, who were tested. 203 of this group, who have been under institutional quarantine, tested negative for the virus.
It is understood that two of the three latest confirmed cases are related to one of the first nine confirmed cases.
"On his return from Dubai, he went home to his family. After the first confirmed case, his community advised him to go for check up where he tested positive. Therefore, his wife and daughter were his closest contacts and had been quarantined in Entebbe," tweeted President Yoweri Museveni.
The third person is a 15-year-old teen who returned from school in the UK a little over a week ago (March 21). He is said to have been under institutional quarantine, where he developed symptoms and tested positive.
6:50pm | Good evening
Hello everyone, glad you could join us for this live text commentary. Later this evening, at 8:00pm to be precise, President Yoweri Museveni will speak to the nation, giving an update on the status of the novel coronavirus pandemic that has swept a wave of morbidity across the world.
We expect to hear the President announce more measures Uganda can undertake to stop the marauding virus in its tracks. So, as we await his address, how about we kill these remaning 70 minutes by taking a look at what has been happening in and outside of Uganda - of course sticking to the obvious theme: coronavirus.