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Gov’t disregarded human rights in imposing COVID-19 restrictions

An LDU officer beats vendors on the streets all in the name of imposing gov’t Covid-19 control measures. File Photo

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | In countering the transmission of COVID-19, the government focused more on protecting people but lost sight of ethics and people’s rights, a new study by social scientists at Makerere University said, and recommended that this can’t continue into future epidemics.

Dr John Barugahare, the principal investigator on the study told URN in an interview on Thursday that the government did not consider any ethics when imposing early lockdown restrictions and to date, no deliberations on ethics have taken place.

The study conducted between September and December involved 113 participants including health workers, civil servants and members of the public picked from Kampala and Mukono districts. It sought to establish how public health responses to COVID-19 can be strengthened through the integration of human rights and ethics.

Dr Barugahare says that respondents felt that the government imported measures that were not sensitive to their needs and didn’t take into account the social, economic and other special contextual factors of the population. He says for example that when the lockdown on transport was imposed, people living with HIV had to be forced to reveal their status to a third-party who is not a health worker.

Barugahare who is also a lecturer in the Department of Philosophy says that while the restrictive measures imposed delayed transmission of the disease, the complacency that followed and the rise in infection rates currently speak to the fact that the manner in which the measures were implemented isn’t socially legitimate.

He adds that the public should have been involved in deciding which measures work best if only the country followed the 2017 World Health Organization recommendation for countries to adopt local frameworks that should be used in decision making when pandemics strike.

Going forward he says, in the recently launched community engagement strategy, government needs to set up decision-making frameworks in advance that should be able to come into play in case of emergencies without having to take the public by surprise.

Speaking at the release of the report, Prof. Julius Kikoma, the Deputy Dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences said that the findings show a gap that the Ministry of Health should fill as the pandemic continues. He says the government never thought that the pandemic would drag on for such things as politics to be considered.



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