Uganda will fully lift the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, and open all education institutions in January 2022, President Museveni has announced.
This will be 22 months since March 2020 when the Government announced a lockdown to contain the spread of COVID-19 pandemic.
Museveni, who was addressing the nation from State House, Nakasero on Thursday night, said by January, Uganda will have vaccinated about the number of people that it targets before fully lifting the lockdown.
“By the end of December 2021, more than 12 million people will have been vaccinated,” said Museveni.
Of the 12 million, there is another category of 4.8 million which includes; teachers, security personnel, health workers, students of post secondary education institutions elderly above 50 years, people below 50 years, but with comorbidities such as cancer and diabetes.
“All those must be fully vaccinated by December so that we open schools, and all the economy in January, and resume the activities of life and economy with rational safety,” he said.
The comments come against the backdrop of increased pressure from opposition to open schools and entire economy to restore shattered livelihoods.
Uganda is the only country on the African continent where schools remain fully closed for close to two years despite registering low Covid-19 infections and deaths. Uganda is followed by Nepal (74 weeks), Bolivia (73 weeks).
Museveni said most of the vaccines needed are now available, adding that by the end of December, Uganda will have received 23 million doses.
So far, the country has received 4.5 million doses of AstraZeneca, 1.6 million doses of Pfizer, 647,000 doses of Moderna, 1 million doses of Sinovac, 1.4 million doses of Johnson and Johnson and over 360,000 doses of Sinopharm.
Right now, there are 4.7 million doses enough to vaccinate 1.6 million people, and 2.4 million as first dose at Uganda’s vaccination rate.
“I am telling Ugandans that vaccines for frontline health workers and other categories are available. Walk to Health Centre III or be carried by ‘Bazukulu’ or bodaboda, bicycle, vehicle etc and be immunized,” said Museveni.
“Let everybody be informed that schools will open in January, and the rest of the economy will be opened in the same January of 2022.”
The Situation of, and Impact of COVID 19 on School going Girls and Young Women in Uganda reported hat between March 2020 and June 2021, there was a 22.5 per cent increase in pregnancy among girls aged 10-24 seeking first antenatal care from 80,653 to 98,810.
Evidence shows that the children’s numeracy and literacy levels fall with many facing the risk of never attending school again. There are other risks such as child labour, negative mental health, and sexual exploitation with many teenage girls becoming pregnant and being victims of early marriages.
But Museveni said allowing schools to reopen would lead to a higher death toll due to increased COVID-19 transmission from students to their parents.
Museveni also commented on Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy – the reluctance or refusal to vaccinate despite the availability of vaccines – which he said threatens to reverse progress made in tackling the pandemic.
“All the eligible categories, come out and be vaccinated so that we open schools and the economy in January 2022. Even if you don’t come out for vaccination, we will open schools and full economy in January,” he reiterated.
Museveni ordered Sub County Chiefs, parish chiefs, and GISOs to ensure that all adults in their respective areas are vaccinated.
“If they don’t get vaccinated, I will hold you accountable,” he warned.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, Uganda has recorded 125,920 infections, 96,597 recoveries and 3,209 fatalities.
The positivity rate in the country stands at 1% as opposed to 20% in May to September this year’s when the country had the second wave.