Southern and Eastern Africa COVID-19 Digest (Discontinued on 31 Aug 2020)

Situation Report
Uganda — Trends

Government starts to ease containment measures

  • First case: 21 March 2020

  • Total cases: 2,679 (as of 26 August 2020)

  • Total deaths: 28

  • Schools: Closed countrywide (9.6 million learners affected).

  • Borders/Flights: All borders closed; International flights suspended until 24 April, except for aircraft in a state of emergency, humanitarian aid, medical and relief flights and technical landings.

  • Containment measures: National curfew from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. from 22 July. Shops, hotels and restaurants allowed to resume operations since 26 May; most shopping arcades in Kampala allowed to reopen since on 22 July.


The Ministry of Health has confirmed 2,670 COVID-19 cases as of 26 August, including 28 deaths. The Ministry confirmed the country’s first death related to the coronavirus on 23 July. Officials at the Ministry of Health have reportedly announced that quarantine centres for suspected COVID-19 patients are at full capacity, making it impossible to admit more people, according to media reports. The country has reportedly a capacity for 200 patients in public centres, majority of which are filled with returning citizens, according to the authorities. Uganda reportedly started on 26 May a phased easing of restrictions imposed in March to contain the COVID-19 outbreak in the country, according to media reports. Shops, hotels and restaurants continue to operate since May subject to health guidelines including social distancing guidelines, mandatory use of face masks. Private transports continue to operate except for s border districts to limit cross-border transmissions. Borders remain closed except for cargo transport, Public transport resumed on 4 June. The Government on 1 July temporarily re-opened two border crossings in Uganda’s Zombo District at the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to allow entry to asylum seekers from the DRC stranded in an inaccessible area in Mahagi Territory since late May, according to UNHCR. More than 3,000 refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo arrived in Uganda between 1 and 3 July, following a temporary opening of two border crossing points at Golajo and Mount Zeu, north-western Uganda. On 11 August, the Ministry of Disaster Preparedness and Refugees reporteldy stated that it is considering revoking the refugee status of some people, following the spread of COVID-19 infections and deaths within refugee settlements, according to media reports. This followed reports that a refugee suspected to have died of coronavirus in Hoima refugee camp had allegedly crossed into the Democratic Republic of the Congo and back into the Kyangwali camp in Hoima. The authorities have raised concerns that the crossing by some refugees back into countries of origin and returning back to Uganda is likely to increase the risk of imported transmissions into the country.

Effective 22 July, the President reduced the nationwide curfew and will start at 9 p.m. to 6 a.m., instead of 7 p.m. The Government has further directed the reopening of 110 out of 230 shopping arcades in Kampala, subject to strict adherence to health guidelines on prevention of COVID-19. The President has banned the selling of imported goods from China, India and Dubai and instead trade in locally manufactured goods. Similar restrictions have been extended to salon operators who opened on 21 July, subject to these rules. Motorcycle (bodaboda) riders that were previously restricted to only carrying cargo have been allowed to carry passengers effective 27 July but ensure both rider and passenger follow health and safety regulations and the rider keeps a record of every passenger transported. Parliamentary sessions have been operating in accordance with the health guidelines, with lawmakers working in shifts outside the Parliament building in open air tents and most staff working from home. The Ministry of Health completed the screening of all Cabinet Ministers, after one of the Prime Ministers’ assistant tested positive in June.

Uganda had previously instituted 54 measures to contain the virus, including closing all educational institutions, suspending communal prayers in mosques, churches and other venues, stopping all public political rallies, cultural gatherings or conferences, and banning the movement of all privately-owned passenger vehicles. When the President announced on 14 April the extension of the measures he highlighted that,  even during the  lockdown,  certain activities  should continue, including work on farms to produce crops for food and cash, work in the factories, provided the companies camp their workers nearby, cargo transport, provision of utilities, medical services and others.

Ahead of the presidential election in early 2021, the Electoral Commission announced a ban on public gatherings and campaigns and has urged candidates to use the media instead to get their messages to voters.

According to media reports, at least 10 people have reportedly died as a result of brutality from security personnel implementing the COVID-19 restrictions in the country. Human rights activists and government officials have called on the Government to ensure rights are protected during COVID-19 pandemic period.


  • The Government has implemented a house-to-house food distribution during the lockdown. President Museveni has stated that the food support is targeted in urban areas towards people who relied on daily earnings that have been impacted by the anti-COVID-19 measures–including working in hair salons; bars; night clubs; garages; selling non-food items in markets; etc–and who do not grow their own food.

  • As of 8 July, UNHCR had installed 318 family tents, as well as nine water tanks, health screening areas, toilets, and handwashing facilities for the new arrivals received in DRC this week.  In addition, UNHCR and partners are providing food, water, medical checks and temporary shelter, and health teams and an ambulance are on stand-by in case anyone requires hospitalization.

  • The Ugandan Health Ministry has been conducting sample COVID-19 testing, with the first 570 samples returning negative. Refugees have received doses of Vitamin A and vaccinations against cholera, measles, rubella and polio. However, the refugee response in Uganda continues to face multiple challenges due to underfunding, including severe food ration cuts.  UNHCR has received just 18 per cent of the US$357 million required for its operation in Uganda in 2020.

Official sources:

Ministry of Health Official Twitter and Ministry of Health COVID-19 webpage

WHO Uganda

President Museveni’s fourth address (14 April)

Other links:

UNHCR stepping up coronavirus prevention measures for refugees across East, Horn and Great Lakes region of Africa

COVID-19 Educational Disruption and Response, by UNESCO

COVID-19 World Travel Restrictions, by the Emergency Division of the World Food Programme (WFP)

Global COVID-19 Airport Status, by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)

Policy Response to COVID-19, by IMF