Uganda: More Govt Offices Block Unvaccinated Staff, Visitors

21 October 2021

Authorities at the Ministry of Health have barred staff who are not fully vaccinated against Covid-19 from accessing their premises.

An October 18 notice by the director-general of health services at the Health ministry, Dr Henry Mwebesa, indicates that the position was reached in a special meeting with an aim of promoting vaccination as the country races to inoculate 21.9 million people before fully reopening the economy.

"During the Covid-19 strategic committee meeting held on the October 5, it was resolved that staff who are not fully vaccinated must not access the ministry premises," the notice reads.

It continues: "Accordingly, all staff must get vaccinated and shall show results whenever coming to work. This takes immediate effect."

The move by the Ministry of Health comes about six days after the National Medical Stores (NMS) announced that it had banned all staff and visitors who are not vaccinated from accessing their offices to curb the spread of the virus.

Dr Alfred Driwale, the head of immunisation programme at the Ministry of Health, said making vaccination voluntary doesn't mean it is optional.

"Making the vaccination voluntary means we want you to have informed consent. If your employer insists that you get vaccinated, then that is the right employer. Because in your workplace, there are many people and he is mandated to protect the workers. Crowding increases risks of Covid-19 infection and the alternative would be to close the workplace if people refuse to take the vaccine," he said in an interview.

Although the unvaccinated staff at NMS and Ministry of Health have not complained, legal experts say the directive violates the right to access, specifically for visitors.

Mr Dan Wandera Ogaloo, a constitutional lawyer, told this newspaper last week that such a directive of barring unvaccinated people from premises would have been possible if it had been among the Ministry of Health standard operating procedures.

"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 shouldn't apply to visitors," he said.

The Attorney General, Ms Kiryowa Kiwanuka, said he couldn't comment on the issue because he had not seen the notices from NMS and the Ministry of Health.

The law

Deputy Attorney General Jackson Kafuuzi last week said barring access "is catered for under Article 23 (1) (d)."

Article 23 (1) (d) stipulates: "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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