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 By Mulengera Reporters

 As part of the anti-COVID19 efforts, Gen Museveni in March constituted a cabinet subcommittee to coordinate all the mitigation measures that were being proposed by scientists and other stakeholders with brilliant ideas but who had no means to reach him directly. Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda chairs it with others like David Bahati representing planning, Chris Baryomunsi (Boda communities), Evelyn Anite (private investors/manufacturers), Amelia Kyambadde (the business community), Jane Ruth Aceng/Moriku Kaducu (health) and Diana Atwine ( health) just to mention a few. It’s this committee that has been doing much of the donkey work feeding into the Presidential addresses Gen Museveni has been having to update the nation about Uganda’s collective COVID response.

In their latest brief, the Committee members salute the President for resolutely leading the country to combat Coronavirus whose spread they believe, in consultation with the relevant scientists, has effectively been broken since Museveni first locked down the country, imposed 7pm-6am curfew and required citizens to stay at home. Because of this progress, the committee has since proposed interventions Gen Museveni can proclaim at the expiry of the 21 days lockdown to relax the situation and gradually get life back to normal.

These proposed relaxations include partial reopening of the school system whereby schools that are strictly boarding (do we have any such?) can reopen with the learners, their teachers and other support staff living incommunicado within the school premises. They don’t get out to visit anyone. Neither should any outsiders be allowed into the school. This is aimed at ensuring that nobody gets exposed to outsiders that might be carrying the virus. Universities like Makerere are being proposed to remain closed until there is certainty that Uganda has totally circumvented COVID or when treatment or vaccine has globally been established.

But before Gen Museveni proclaims all these relaxations, the Rugunda committee proposals must be subjected to further scrutiny during today Monday weekly cabinet meeting during which the President must get more input from other Ministers fine-tuning the proposals from the Rugunda committee. Some of the Rugunda proposals could be dropped altogether and others retained with improvement.

Taxis and Boda Bodas, generally public transport, are being proposed to return to the road transporting employees for offices, factories and arcades that are being proposed for phased gradual reopening too. That each bike rider must strictly wear his helmet and each passenger he carries must face-mask themselves to limit any potential exposure. The taxis must carry 8 as opposed to 14 passengers to ensure observance of the required physical distancing.

Yet that isn’t all. There must be hand sanitizers carried by each taxi conductor or driver to ensure regular hand-washing as passengers join or disembark from the taxi. Temperature measurements must also be regularly taken to ensure those coming for work at public buildings are measured as they enter and depart after work. Such companies operating offices on public buildings must ensure that 50% of the employees come to work on shared weeks; one group this week and another group the week after. This is to avoid congesting these office spaces. The commonly-used office doors must remain open through the day to avoid different staffers touching on it to potentially expose others in case they are infected themselves.

There will be increased expenditure on cleaning of public buildings housing those big offices because the owners must hire a company to regularly fumigate and disinfect the entire building just in case. People cruising in private vehicles are proposed to be permitted back on the road but shouldn’t carry more than three people in a vehicle at any one moment. Each private driver must strictly adhere to such guidelines or else gets sanctioned for breaching SoPs for COVID. Restaurants too are being proposed to reopen but strictly observe physical distancing to ensure they don’t become centers of new COVID transmissions.

Factories (which Amelia says had in their 1000s closed due to Museveni’s restrictions) are being proposed to reopen but strictly observe physical distancing rules, compulsorily have hand-sanitizers applicable to all and temperature-taking thermometers to which every employee must be subjected on entry in the morning and exit in the evening. The wearing of gloves and facemasks too will be compulsory at factories and even restaurants. Because he badly needs taxes to keep realizing the money he is used to having around him in plenty, Gen Museveni will most likely buy into this suggestion to reopen some of these businesses soonest so that URA is able to once against collect taxes from them.

As regards the curfew, which many citizens are grateful for because it has eliminated night time crime, the Rugunda team is suggesting diminishing it to fewer hours whereby its commencement time is moved from 7pm to 10pm going all the way to 6am daily.

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