Ugandans found praying in public risk a two month-jail term for violating public health controls related to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The East African country has recently experienced a surge in Covid-19 cases, and a report by Voice of America in June indicates the Covid strain currently prevalent in Uganda is the Delta variant, which was first observed in India.
“From our observations, we have seen increased transferability resulting in a fast-moving outbreak, heavier clinical presentations of new cases, and unfortunately poor clinical outcomes,” said Health Minister Jane Ruth Aceng.
Aceng says Uganda is expected to peak in daily case numbers in late July or early August before seeing a slight decline in cases.
For this reason, anyone who prays in the open field or outside a church or mosque does not wear masks, operates street vendors, and sells non-food items will be sentenced to two months in prison by July.
Anyone found running a bar or cinema, attending a seminar, cultural event, or indoor sporting event can face jail time if convicted.
“These penalties are not penalties. In a way, it’s about changing attitudes. That the moment you know that if I don’t follow these SOPs (standard operating procedures), that will happen.”
The new law also prohibits the entry of visitors from India who are not Ugandan citizens or residents. Anyone helping escape someone locked up in a place designated for isolation or quarantine from Covid-19 can also be detained for two months.
The Ministry of Health hopes that once the government can procure more vaccines, fewer people will be severely affected and require intensive care in hospitals.
By this week, 861,645 people have been vaccinated with their first dose of AstraZeneca, while have 129,257 people received their second dose.
To encourage Ugandans to get vaccinated, the country is currently conducting a study to monitor the effectiveness of the vaccine by counting Covid infections that can occur in people who have been vaccinated.
“Preliminary research shows that no hospitalized people were fully vaccinated at the time of the illness,” Aceng said.
“Hence, there is no current evidence to support the claim that fully vaccinated individuals acquired serious infections and died in Uganda.”
Uganda has also applied for 2 million doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine through the African Export-Import Bank and the African Union. and an additional 9 million cans through Covax’s co-payment facility.