The SOPs include wearing of masks at all times, social distancing and washing of hands and sanitising, and avoiding, as much as possible, physical contact with fellow persons
As the country gears up for the 2021 general election, experts have urged politicians to stick to the Electoral Commission (EC) guidelines and the Ministry of Health Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) in order to minimise the spread of COVID-19 during the electoral process.
Citing the manner in which the National Resistance Movement party primaries are being conducted, the experts expressed fear that if the trend continues, there is likely to be a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in the country.
Speaking at the celebration to mark the International Day of Democracy 2020 at the Kampala Serena Hotel, the EC chairperson, Justice Simon Byabakama, regretted that despite issuing out SOPs to guide the conduct of election activities under the COVID-19 environment, the majority of the aspiring candidates and their voters have not followed them, while conducting elections in the party primaries as shown in the media.
The SOPs include wearing of masks at all times, social distancing and washing of hands and sanitising, and avoiding, as much as possible, physical contact with fellow persons. Byabakama warned Ugandans against taking the disease lightly, saying the speed at which the virus is spreading in the community has now reached worrying levels.
"I want to urge all leaders and your supporters to observe the SOPs because this trend, from my perspective, is rather worrying. The increase in the infection, the level of infection in a single day is something we did not have in the first months of the lockdown. The choice is entirely in our hands. We have what is required to ensure that this virus does not spread so fast," he said.
Byabakama said elections continue to be a vital part of democracy in Uganda as citizens choose how they would like to be governed. United Nations Development Programme resident representative Elsie Attafuah, on behalf of the UN family in Uganda, urged all the electoral stakeholders to refl ect on how best they engage in the electoral process to enhance the democratic outcomes and also minimise the risk of spreading COVID-19.
She pledged to support the Government in its democratic journey and also in its effort to safeguard the Sustainable Development Goals achieved for future posterity. The International Day of Democracy is celebrated annually and gives countries the opportunity to review the state of democracy, celebrate the gains and dialogue on how to safeguard the gains achieved for future posterity.
The celebration was attended by experts from EC, United Nations, COVID-19 National Task Force, World Health Organisation and civil society organisations. The challenge, however, is how to observe the citizens' rights to vote and chose their leaders, but remain healthy and safe during elections.
According to the roadmap, the nomination of the candidates for local governments is scheduled to take place between September 21 and October 1. Nomination for parliamentary election is scheduled to take place between October 12 and October 13.
Nomination of candidates for president will take place on December 2 and 3. Then the nominations will be followed by a campaign period leading to polling days between January 10 and February 8 2021.
Presidential advisor on epidemic and pandemics Dr Monica Musenero expressed concern that the campaigns are coming to the peak when the infection is already in the community and added that unless everyone takes the issue serious, "we might see a disaster after or during elections."