Covid-19: An Outline Of The Legal Instruments Issued By The Government Of Uganda In Relation To The Pandemic
On 30th January 2020, the Director General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr Tedros Adhanom declared the novel corona virus (Covid-19) outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. This followed reports from various nations outside of China that Covid-19 had begun to spread within their borders.
Due to the exponential increase in infections across the globe, Covid-19 was declared a global pandemic by WHO on 11th March 2020 which also issued and continues to issue travel, personal and technical advice to combat the spread of Covid-19. The first officially confirmed case of Covid-19 in Uganda was announced on the 22nd of March 2020, shortly after the government had commenced the issuance of various legal measures in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The measure introduced by the Government of Uganda have as a first step taken the form of directives issued by the President of Uganda in his various speeches to the nation. A number of these have taken effect within hours of issuance occasionally leading to mixed interpretation in the course of immediate enforcement of such verbal pronouncements. The directives have been followed in the subsequent days by issuance of subsidiary legislation in the form of statutory instruments issued by the Minister of Health in exercise of power granted to the minister by the Public Health Act, Cap 281.
This review provides an overview of the legal measures that have been adopted by the Government of Uganda through subsidiary legislation in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A. The Public Health (Notification of COVID – 19) Order No. 45 of 2020.
This order was issued on 17th March 2020by the Minister of Health. The order declares COVID-19 a notifiable disease to which provisions of the Public Health Act shall apply.
B. The Public Health (Prevention of COVID – 19) (Requirements and Conditions of Entry into Uganda) Order No. 46 of 2020.
This order was issued by the Minister of Health on 17th March 2020. It instituted the following measures:
- It imposed a duty on medical or health officers to carry out the following:
- to examine any person arriving into Uganda for COVID-19;
- to disinfect any aircraft, vehicle or vessel that is contaminated; and
iii. to hold in isolation at a place designated for that purpose any person suffering from Covid-19 at their expense.
- It provided for the categorisation of persons arriving in Uganda based on the classification attached to the country of departure and transit and any other factors as may be determined by a medical officer.
- It provided for the creation of the following offences:
- any failure to comply with the order, obstruction of medical officers, failure to give information and giving misleading information is rendered an offence. The offence attracts a penalty of imprisonment of up to three months, upon conviction.
- operators of vehicles, aircraft or vessels who fail to assist medical officers as required, the making of any false statements or knowingly give false answers to any question do commit an offence. The offence attracts a penalty of imprisonment for a period not exceeding twelve months, upon conviction.
C. The Public Health (Prohibition of Entry into Uganda) Order No.53 of 2020.
This order was issued by the Minister of Health on 24th March 2020 and set out the following:
- It prohibited the entry into Uganda by any person and the introduction into Uganda of any animal, article or thing at or through any of the border posts of Uganda from Monday 23rd March 2020.
- It exempted from the application of the aforesaid prohibition any person, animal, article or thing belonging to any United Nations Organisation and any humanitarian organization seeking to enter into Uganda through any border post and any vehicle or aircraft used for the conveyance of cargo into Uganda.
D. The Public Health (Control of Covid-19) Rules No.52 of 2020
These rules were issued by the Minister of Health on 24th March 2020 and provide for the following:
- the imposition of an obligation on owners/occupiers of premises to notify a medical officer of a Covid-19 case;
- the duty of a medical officer to refer a patient whom they suspect to have Covid-19 to the nearest regional referral hospital;
- the power of the Minister of Health to declare a place as an infected area and regulate the activities that may be conducted in the infected area;
- the power of a medical officer or health inspector to enter any premises and search for Covid-19;
- the power of a medical officer to disinfect premises and dispose of bodies of persons that die from Covid-19;
- the prohibition on spitting in public buildings or places accessible to the public;
- the power of a medical officer to request the Police to return a person that escapes from isolation;
- the creation of an offence for aiding a person to escape from quarantine and they are liable on conviction to imprisonment for two months; and
- the closure of:
- schools and institutions of higher learning until 18th April 2020;
- bars and cinema halls, until 16th April 2020;
- prayers in churches and mosques and open-air prayers, until 16th April 2020;
- marriage ceremonies, wedding parties, vigils and funerals, until 18th April 2020, except where the people gathered are not more than 10;
- public meetings, including political rallies, conferences and cultural related meetings, until 18th April 2020;
- indoor and outdoor concerts and sports events, until 16th April 2020; and
- trading in live animals at places designated for this purpose by a local authority, until 18th April 2020.
E. The Public Health (Control of Covid-19) (No.2) Rules No. 55 of 2020
These rules, issued by the Minister of Health came into force on 30th March 2020 and provided for the following:
- imposed of a nationwide curfew starting at 7:30pm and ending at 6:30 am with effect from 1st April 2020 up to 14th April 2020;
- prohibited the selling of non-food items in the markets and stores up to 14th April 2020 with the exception of pharmaceuticals, agricultural chemicals, veterinary drugs and detergent;
- closed all non-essential shops, salons, gyms, hotels and lodging houses up to 14th April 2020;
- allowed the operation of factories and construction sites, provided that they provide accommodation for the employees at the factory or construction site and the employees are prohibited from leaving the factory or construction site until 14th April 2020;
- prohibited the use of motor vehicles on any road in Uganda except essential service providers whose vehicles must bear a sticker from the Ministry of Works and Transport up to 19th May 2020; and
- created an offence for any one that contravenes these rules and that on conviction, they would be liable to imprisonment for a period not exceeding 3 months.
F. Further Statutory Instruments in amendment of the Orders and Rules
The rules set out in the aforesaid Public Health (Control of Covid-19) Rules No.52 of 2020 were subsequently amended by the Public Health (Control of COVID-19) (Amendment) Rules Order No. 57 of 2020 issued by the Minister of Health on 9th April 2020. The amendment provided for the extension of the lockdown measures that had been issued to 5th May 2020.
The Public Health (Control of Covid-19) Rules (No.2) No. 55 of 2020 we subsequently amended by the following series of instruments issued by the Minister of Health:
- The Public Health (Control of COVID-19) (Amendment) Rules Order No. 58 of 2020 issued on 9th April 2020, which limited the movement of boda bodas (motorcycle riders) beyond 2:00 pm on each day and extended the lockdown measures to 5th May 2020; and
- The Public Health (Control of COVID-19) (Amendment) Rules Order No. 64 of 2020 which came into force on 6th May 2020 and provided for the following:
- allowed hardware shops, motor garages and workshops to operate;
- allowed constructions sites to operate only if they can provide accommodation to the employees up to 19th May 2020;
- allowed restaurants to operate only ‘takeaway’ services;
- extension of time for the movement of boda bodas (motorcycle riders) not to exceed 5:00 pm on each day;
- allowed provision of legal services of the Uganda Law Society limited to 30 vehicles for its members on any given day;
- permitted the movement of providers of insurance services;
- impose a duty on all persons in Uganda to wear face masks when outside their premises; and
- extended the operation of all lockdown measures that are in place to 19th May 2020.
The above comprise the legal measures adopted as of 18th May 2020.
The information contained in this review is for general guidance and not a substitute for the need to get appropriate professional advice. If you require further information, please write to your usual contact person at Mukumbya Musoke Advocates or either of:
Peter Kiberu or Julius M. Musoke