The Ugandan government has now withdrawn mandatory COVID-19 vaccination for all passengers using public transport.
The cancellation of the directive comes barely a week after it was announced by President Yoweri Museveni as a condition for reopening the economy and allowing public service vehicles to load to their full passenger capacity.
Initially, during the lockdown, public transport vehicles were restricted to carrying only half of their licensed capacity in order to ensure that there is a safe distance between passengers.
With the full reopening of the economy, passengers had been required to carry vaccination cards, a measure which, however, has been found to be difficult to enforce, according to Works and Transport minister Gen Edward Katumba Wamala.
He says that many public transporters could not differentiate between genuine and fake vaccination cards, yet some already vaccinated travellers never received their cards from the mnistry of Health.
Katumba has now revised the directive, restricting proof of vaccination to just operators of public transport vehicles, among them drivers, conductors and their staff.
He told a press conference at the Uganda Media Centre that travellers using public transport will only be required to have a mask on at all times, adding that the police have been directed to arrest non-compliant passengers.
“I want to emphasise that every crew member of the service vehicle which includes the driver and the conductor or turn man and any other crew member must be fully vaccinated. That one we agreed with the transporters, and we have agreed with traffic to be making spot checks if they find the driver or turn man is not vaccinated, they can decide that the bus or taxi will not continue. So those ones must be fully vaccinated and must be ready to present their vaccination certificates all the time,” Katumba said.
Katumba also cautioned the public against faking vaccination cards, noting that preventing COVID-19 is a personal responsibility.
“Of course, it would also be preferable that all passengers are vaccinated, it may not be possible now but the transporters can double-check on that. But for your personal health, personal safety, don’t go to Nasser [road] and get a forged certificate. It doesn’t help you, you’re cheating nobody, you’re cheating yourself. Don’t buy any certificate just because you want to make the travel…In the event that the people have to travel, the minimum is, you must have the mask on. The police has a right to stop any vehicle any time, and if they find passengers without masks, they find the driver and conductor without masks, they are free to stop that vehicle and stop that journey and arrest the vehicle on the stop.
Mustafa Mayambala, the chairman of the Uganda Transport Development Agency (UTRADA), noted that they equally want to see the police dealing with all drivers and conductors who are reluctant in enforcing standard operating guidelines in the control of COVID-19.