President Yoweri Museveni has Wednesday evening announced the re-opening of places of Worship.
While addressing the nation on the state of COVID-19 in the country and safe re-opening of sectors that have been under lockdown since 2020, the President said that the National Task Force usually considers a number of factors such as; risk of transmission in that sector, the vulnerability of individuals and the overall economic impact.
Adding that their decisions are also guided by the Scientific evidence-based approach for safe and sustainable reopening in a phased manner, enforcement of the SOPs by the sector in line with the COVID-19 Statutory Instrument, and increased awareness by the sector of the risks and adherence to SOPs.
“I am aware of the limitations of the current Public Health Act. Cabinet will fast track its amendment to facilitate the enforcement of SOPs and include among others, the on-spot and court fines of those who fail to adhere to SOPs” Mr. Museveni said.
It is in this regard, that the National Task Force reviewed the sectors that were pending the lifting of restrictions and he directed that;
- Places of Worship:
The places of worship can now open under the following conditions:
- Limit the number of worshippers at any one time to not more than 200 provided the place of worship can ensure physical distancing of 2 meters on either side and adequate aeration.
- There must be strict adherence to all SOPs at all times i.e. hand washing/ use of alcohol based sanitizer, temperature monitoring, and consistent wearing of face masks by all congregants including the choir and preachers.
- No congregation for worship after curfew hours
- The 200-persons-limit, physical distancing and all other SOPs should be respected even during special occasions e.g. weddings, funeral services, confirmation etc
- Partner with Government to communicate and mobilize the population for vaccination and other control measures
- Weddings, Burials and other social events:
The number of persons attending these events can now increase to 200 under strict observance of SOPs
- Casinos, Gaming, Betting shops and Gyms:
- The casinos, gaming, betting shops and gyms can now operate during the day and close by 6:00pm.
- The various local governments, Cities and Kampala Capital City Authority, working with the National Gaming and Lottery Board MUST inspect the various betting outlets for suitability and adherence to SoPs before opening.
- Concerts, disco halls, performing artists and beaches
These tend to congregate in large numbers and are difficult to control. With the level of vaccination still low, I direct that these remain closed until at least the 4.8 million priority population is vaccinated.
Bars are a high-risk area where individuals have no sobriety to observe the SOPs. They will be considered for re-opening when the 4.8 million priority population is vaccinated.
- Cinemas and Bibanda (Local Cinema Halls)
These should remain closed as the local cinema halls are areas of immense crowding and mostly have poor aeration and are designed to have artificial ventilation systems.
Restriction of movement of persons at night time is key to the enforcement of other preventive health measures. Curfew remains at 7:00pm – 5:30am. Boda Bodas should stop movement at 6:00 pm.
- Weekly markets
These are open-door settings and currently, transmission rates are low in some areas. These can be opened with strict adherence to SOPs and the curfew hours except for current hotspot districts (Soroti, Kampala, Kalungu, Kabale, Kumi, Tororo, Gulu, Nwoya, and Yumbe). The RDCs, RPCs, DPCs, DISOs, GISOs should enforce adherence to SOPs.
The Minister for Health should follow up with the hotspot districts and review their situation for safe re-opening of the weekly markets after two weeks.
- Reopening of schools:
Infections in children below 18 years are often mild and they recover quickly. However, many of the 15 million learners are day scholars who once infected, go back home and infect their parents and grandparents that may subsequently die. This was observed during the second wave.
To avoid a similar scenario, the National Task Force, on several occasions considered conditions for safe re-opening of schools which included; vaccination of teachers, non-teaching staff, 330,000 students aged 18 years and above, plus all the other priority population, This was in addition to the rate of transmission in the country.
To date, out of the targeted 550,000 teachers, 269,945 have already received the 1st dose of vaccination while 96,653 have received the second dose. This leaves a total of 280,055 not yet vaccinated at all.
The President directed that;
- Post-Secondary institutions of learning to open with effect from 1st November 2021 on condition that; all teachers and non-teaching staff are vaccinated
- The 330,000 students aged 18 years and above in post-secondary institutions should be vaccinated as soon as possible
- The rest of the learning institutions will open in January 2022.
“I call upon all teachers and support staff to get vaccinated as soon as possible to enable safe re-opening of schools.”