Kikuube, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Kikuube district COVID-19 taskforce has suspended water transport across Lake Albert following the surging cases of COVID-19 in the district and the country at large. Kikuube shares a porous border point with the Democratic Republic of Congo-DRC which is also battling the same pandemic.
Amlan Tumusiime, the Kikuube Resident District Commissioner-RDC told Uganda Radio Network in an interview on Friday morning that they resolved to suspend water transport on the lake to prevent the further spread of the pandemic. There are currently 25 cases of COVID-19 in the district, eight of whom are health workers, nine humanitarian workers, a police officer and members of the public.
According to Tumusiime, there are many boats transporting businessmen between the district and the DRC which he says poses a great risk of escalating the pandemic in the area. He says they have deployed Uganda Peoples Defence Forces-UPDF soldiers and the police on the lake and along the shores at all landing sites to monitor the entry points.
“We have suspended water transport on the lake in our district for a period of 42-days. These boat transporters are currently posing the bigger risk of spreading the pandemic between the two countries. No boat will be allowed to cross from Kikuube to DR Congo nor from DR Congo to Kikuube,” Tumusiime said.
On Wednesday, the Hoima district COVID-19 taskforce said it was considering suspending night fishing on the lake as a means of preventing the further spread of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic in the district. According to Richard Tabaro, the Hoima Deputy Resident District Commissioner-RDC, some Ugandan fishermen cross up to the Democratic Republic of Congo-DRC where they mix freely with the local community and fishermen before crossing back to Uganda.
However, according to the taskforce committee, the proposal to suspend the night fishing operations will only be implemented after thorough consultations with the fishermen and their leaders.
Hoima district currently has 124 COVID-19 cases. Of these, only eight are being attended to at the Hoima Regional Referral Hospital COVID-19 treatment unit while the remaining 116 are being managed from their respective homes under the COVID-19 home-based care management.
Last week, the Uganda Peoples Defense Forces-UPDF, police and other sister security agencies deployed heavily at most of the landing sites on the lake Albert shores bordering DRC in the Bunyoro sub-region. The major deployment is at Sebigoro, Kaiso, Ndaiga, Butiaba, Bugoma, Kitebere, and Wanseko landing sites in Hoima, Kagadi, Kikuube and Buliisa districts respectively.
The landing sites are the major entry points for Congolese nationals into the country. The deployment is aimed at stopping the illegal entry by Congolese nationals into the country amidst the surge of COVID-19 infections.
In March 2020, the District Security Committees in Hoima, Kagadi, Buliisa and Kikuube suspended fishing activities on Lake Albert to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The decision was reached after the COVID-19 taskforce committees realized that Ugandan fishermen were crossing to DRC where they would mix freely with their counterparts while on the Lake.
The COVID-19 taskforce committees also suspended boat transport on the lake for a period of 32 days.
Hoima, Buliisa, Kikuube, Nebbi, Ntoroko and Kagadi districts share porous borders with DRC.