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Hefty fines await returning citizens upon violation of COVID-19 conditions

FILE PHOTO: An officer seated on an Infrared fever screening system at Entebbe airport inspects body temperatures of returnees for any irregularities

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Ugandans who may be allowed to return into the country from overseas might face harsh penalties if they in any way violate the conditions of their return. Up to 2,400 Ugandans are stranded abroad as a result of lockdowns occasioned by an outbreak of coronavirus disease.

The Cabinet last week resolved to allow those who can afford the cost of their air tickets to return. Each of them will be expected to present a COVID-19 certificate indicating that they have been tested before boarding a plane to Uganda and will be quarantined for 14-days from the day they land at the airport.

According to a source from the government, the Ministry of Health is working on penalties for those who might try to beat the system. “It could be a hefty fine or jail term,” the source, a government minister told URN.

The Minister says that the government is studying penalties applied in the United States of America and the United Kingdom to stop a new wave of the virus.

In England, those who breach coronavirus quarantine guidelines are charged 1000 pounds (4.6 million Shillings) or prosecuted with an unlimited fine while removal from the country is a last resort for foreigners. They are also fined 100 pounds or 464,000 Shillings for not filling in the contact locator form which would indicate the details of how one can be traced.

In the USA, any person who violates any regulation of quarantine or who enters or departs from the precincts of any quarantine station, ground or anchorage in disregard of quarantine guidelines is punished with a fine of not more than USD 1,000 or by imprisonment for not more than one year or both.

The government minister says that the President allowed Ugandans to come in but held reservations that most of the Uganda COVID-19 cases are imported, and having the 2,400 people coming sounded like a disaster.

“You saw how the first case of people who arrived in the country were quarantined, they left the quarantine centre after paying a bribe of only 50,000 Shillings while others freely mixed with the population in that area,” he added.

He said that although many Ugandans are worried about the rising number of truck drivers, the 2,400 returnees should be even more worrying because many are coming from countries that have been the epicenter of the virus.

An official from the Ministry of Health confirmed that the government is coming up with new quarantine guidelines for those who are returning from ten country from overseas. URN could not confirm when  the process could be completed and the details of the fine and penalty.

But the Minister of Health Jane Ruth Aceng told Journalists that they would be very strict on Ugandans returning from abroad. She says the Ugandans will be brought home in phases and in an orderly manner and would meet the cost of flight and quarantine.

State Minister for Foreign Affairs Henry Okello Oryem said that the government is working on a detailed plan for the evacuation and quarantine of Ugandans stuck abroad.

Judith Nabakooba, the Minister of ICT and National Guidance recently said that the government is making an arrangement with the United Nation’s World Food Program (WFP) to fly the stranded Ugandans adding that they will have to undergo a 14-day mandatory institutional quarantine. The government had also earlier indicated that they will use the option of available flights like the Ethiopian Airways to bring stranded Ugandans home.



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