Uganda: Unvaccinated Visitors, Staff Banned From Nms Premises

15 October 2021

Authorities at National Medical Stores (NMS) have banned all staff and visitors who are not vaccinated, citing efforts in curbing the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Officials say one will have to present proof of full vaccination before admission into the NMS premises (including cars).

The move is in line with the government's directive to ensure vaccination of all eligible Ugandans as a condition for full reopening of the economy.

"As a government agency mandated to buy, store and distribute medicines (including Covid-19 vaccines), we are leading by example and ensuring that all our staff and visitors coming to our premises are fully vaccinated to comply with the President's directive on full Covid-19 vaccination. We, therefore, expect all our staff and visitors to comply with these new measures to avoid any inconveniences," Ms Sheila Nduhukire, the NMS spokesperson, stated in a press release yesterday.

The directive to staff takes effect immediately, while the notice to visitors comes into effect on Monday.

Legal experts say the directive contravenes several sections of the Constitution, which involve rights of access to public places and right to fair and just treatment.

Mr Dan Wandera Ogaloo, a constitutional lawyer, said such a directive would have been possible if it had been among the Ministry of Health standard operating procedures (SOPS) .

"Anyone can challenge them in court because the directive is not respecting the right to access to public places and it is not constitutional. This would only work maybe if NMS had vaccinated all their staff and some had adamantly refused to comply. It should not apply to the visitors," he said.

Ms Nduhukire said at the onset of the vaccination exercise, NMS organised vaccination campaigns internally for all staff, casual labourers, cleaners and security guards who consented.

"Management resolved that all individuals who are not fully vaccinated against Covid-19 should present a Covid-19 negative PCR test result taken not more than 72 hours," Ms Nduhukire said.

Last month, the Soroti Resident City Commissioner, Mr Peter Pex Paak, put a notice in his office directing all people who wanted to access him present evidence of vaccination.

"Please, for assistance in the Office of City Resident Commissioner Soroti, there should be an evidence vaccination card. Soft or hard copy. Without the evidence, no entry please," the notice reads.

Mr Peter Walubiri, a constitutional lawyer, said NMS would be justifiable in their directive if the country had vaccinated at least 60 percent of the whole population.

"What if someone has a debt with NMS, denying them access to their offices would mean that they have contravened Article 20 of the Constitution. That means there are many lines and articles in the Constitution that NMS is not taking under consideration," Mr Walubiri said.

Statistics from the Ministry of Health and world vaccination tracker show that Uganda has only vaccinated about 0.9 per cent of the whole population. NMS indicates that to date, the government has received 5,690,363 Covid-19 doses, of which 2,378,171 doses have been utilised. At least 2,080,594 are currently being distributed across the country.

What the law says

When contacted, Deputy Attorney General Jackson Kafuuzi said he was in a meeting and referred us to the Constitution.

"It is catered for under Article 23(1) (d). Find the Constitution and check out that Article," he said in a WhatsApp message. Article 23. (1) (d) stipulates that, "No person shall be deprived of personal liberty except in any of the follow; (d) for the purpose of preventing the spread of an infectious or contagious disease;"

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