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Returnees hold protest against extended COVID-19 quarantine

During the protest, Bwowe packed his luggage and the left his room. courtsey photo

Entebbe, Uganda |  THE INDEPENDENT |  A section of Ugandans quarantined at Evelyn Apartments have staged a protest against the extension of their quarantine beyond the mandatory 14-days. The group, which returned into the country on July 2, was expected to complete the quarantine on Friday, July 17.

But according to the Health Ministry, all returnees have to endure extra days while waiting for results from confirmatory results from tests conducted at the end of the 14-day quarantine. Many of the returnees say the decision is unfair to those who were told that the entire process would take 14 days. 

On Friday afternoon, five of the returnees packed up their luggage, left the hotel rooms and gathered at the hotel reception to demand discharge documents from the Ministry of Health. But the Hotel management blocked their exit and demanded payments for the extra days of quarantine. 

Evelyn Apartments is charging returnees USD 60 (225,000 Shillings) a day for full board services. Ivan Bwowe, another returnee who had offered legal services to the returnees says that they have paid a total of  3.1 million Shillings for the 14 days they have so far spent in quarantine and are not able to pay for the extra days. 

Bwowe is also protesting at Grand Global Hotel, where he is quarantined, against extended isolation. He had earlier on written to the Health Minister Dr Jane Ruth Aceng indicating that they will have no contractual obligation with the quarantine centres at the end of the 14th day.  

But he called off the planned protest after the health ministry promised to collect swab samples from the returnees on Thursday morning and release results as soon as possible. He, however, says that the Ministry collected the samples on Thursday afternoon and the results were not yet out by Friday 9 pm.

Viola Ajok, a human rights practitioner tasks the health ministry to fast track the testing of returnees to save them from high quarantine costs due to extended isolation. She says the test results should be released latest a day after the 14th day.

Dr Richard Mugahi, the National Coordinator for Quarantine Centres at Ministry of Health, says the discharge team has not yet got the results from the testing laboratories. 

Since June 22nd,  a total of 928 Ugandans and legal residents have returned from Afghanistan, India, Southern Africa, Ireland and the United Kingdom and are currently accommodated in 37 quarantine centres in Entebbe and Kampala which were gazetted by the Ministry of Health. Another group of returnees is expected next week. 



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