The Ugandan Parliament has shut down for two weeks following a rise in the number of legislators testing positive for the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).
The announcement was made by the Clerk of Parliament, Henry Yoweri Waiswa on Tuesday, June 22.
Waiswa wrote that the decision had been taken after consultation with the new parliamentary leadership of Jacob Oulanyah and Anita Amongi.
He said, “Parliament like the rest of the country has been affected by the second wave of Covid-19 pandemic with the positivity rate of 17.1%. As a mitigating measure in the prevention of the infection, the administration of parliament in consultation with the office of the Speaker is closing parliament to Hon Members of Parliament for a period of two weeks in order to disinfect the parliamentary buildings,” the announcement released on Tuesday by the Clerk to Parliament read in part.
According to the announcement, the August House will now resume its business on July,11, 2021.
The development comes on the backdrop of increased Covid cases among the Members of Parliament.
For example, during the State of the Nation Address, several Members of Parliament tested positive for Covid-19 and missed attending the function.
The same thing happened during the reading of the national budget where over 150 Members of Parliament were stopped from accessing Kololo independence grounds after their Covid results didn’t return.
However, later, the Speaker of Parliament, Jacob Oulanyah ruled that the legislators whose results had not yet returned be given a special tent so they don’t mix up with ones whose results had returned and were negative.
The development also comes on the backdrop of the absence of Speaker Jacob Oulanyah who several reports had indicated was ill and was due to be flown out of the country for treatment.
However, Chris Obore, the director of Communications at Parliament, in a statement on Tuesday dismissed the claims saying took time off to be with his family after a busy schedule since campaigns.
“Following a year of intense political campaigns, keeping the Rt. Hon. Speaker away from home for months, he is taking some time to be with his family. This has been enabled by the new schedule of work at Parliament, “Obore said.
“The Deputy Speaker chairs the House as a shared responsibility not only when Speaker is away. That’s the new approach.”
The Ugandan parliament has a total of 529 legislators.
Members of Parliament took oath on May 17 and business of the August House was delayed by failure by President Museveni to name a new cabinet after the dissolution of the previous one.
However, after the president named his cabinet, Parliament has in the past two weeks being involved in the vetting and approval of the newly appointed ministers who were sworn in on Monday.
Business in the August House was expected to formally begin this week after the full composition of the two arms of government including the legislature and executive but these efforts have been frustrated by the latest development that will seek parliament not sit for two weeks.
President Museveni last week said the current trend of the virus has seen infections increase by 17 fold and hence the need to be curtailed.
“Over the past three weeks, the daily number of people testing positive for Corona has increased from less than 100 to now over 1,700. This represents a 17 fold increase in daily cases. As a result, our epidemic curve is now on the steep rise with increased reports of deaths nationwide,” he said.