Uganda imposes new anti-coronavirus measures to stem raging pandemic

FILE PHOTO: Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni attends a meeting with Russia's President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the Russia–Africa Summit in Sochi, Russia October 23, 2019. Sputnik/Mikhail Metzel/Kremlin via REUTERS

KAMPALA (Reuters) - Uganda's president Yowreri Museveni on Friday introduced sweeping new anti-coronavirus measures including a ban on all vehicular movement except for essential workers to help curb a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic gripping the nation.

The east African country, like most other African peers had been left relatively unscathed by the first wave. It suddenly started experiencing a steep surge in COVID-19 infections last month after authorities confirmed they had detected presence of the Indian coronavirus variant.

"The country has seen a more aggressive and sustained growth of the COVID-19 pandemic," Museveni said in a televised address

He said the daily number of people testing positive has jumped to over 1,700 from less than 100 just three weeks ago.

"We are experiencing very high hospitalization rates and deaths for COVID-19 patients among all age categories."

In new measures to curb the pandemic, he banned movement of both public and private vehicles except those transporting patients and those used by essential workers like health workers.

An existing curfew that began at 9 p.m. was brought forward to 7 p.m. while venues like busy shopping centers, churches and sports arenas were closed.

The new restrictions, Museveni said, will last 42 days.

To date, Uganda has registered a total of 68,778

COVID-19 cases and 542 deaths.

Over the last two weeks local media has extensively reported most health facilities, both public and private, getting full and turning away patients while others have had oxygen supplies taxed.

The new restrictions could undermine a fragile economic recovery from the blow inflicted by last year's lockdown.

Those restrictions contributed to a 1.1% economic contraction in 2020, but the finance ministry had projected before Friday's new measures that growth would climb to 4.3% in the fiscal year starting July.

(Reporting by Elias Biryabarema; Editing by David Gregorio)

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