KAMPALA, Uganda – The Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga has revealed that Parliament will begin COVID-19 mass screening for Members of Parliament on Thursday, July 16, 2020.
Kadaga’s announcement follows MPs requests to be tested after Prime Minister Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda went into self-isolation last month. The Prime Minister’s 14-day self-isolation came after one of his assistants tested positive for Covid-19.
At the time, Health Ministry Permanent Secretary Dr. Diana Atwine said they were unable to test all MPs because of the costs involved. She revealed then that the health ministry decided to only test Ministers and journalists because they are more at risk of contracting Covid-19 given their work.
However, while communicating to the House at the commencement of Wednesday’s plenary session, the Speaker said that the MPs will now be tested after Cabinet members had all been screened.
“Some time back Members of Parliament requested that the Ministry of Health organises mass screening for COVID-19. I am glad to inform you that they have now completed screening the Cabinet and starting tomorrow, we shall be able to do screening here,” Kadaga said.
Kadaga said screening will be carried out at Parliament’s medical centre starting with the 459 Members of Parliament and later on staff.
She directed the Clerk to Parliament to ensure that the screening exercise does not generate congestion at the medical centre whose capacity cannot accommodate big numbers.
“We shall have to cluster you because we do not want all of you to be there at the same time. The clerk will organise and communicate to you the appointment.
Busongora North MP, William Nzoghu said that massive screening should be extended to immediate family members of MPs and staff in order to minimise any chances of infection even after screening.
“Members and staff of Parliament come from families; they interact with people who can infect them even after testing. I wonder if there is a way screening can be extended to our families,” asked Nzoghu
Kadaga said that such an arrangement would require further discussion with the Ministry of Health.
“For now, I will start with my immediate constituents; MPs and staff,” Kadaga said, adding that she was “going to talk to the Ministry of Health on what can be done” for immediate family members.
In a related development, the timing of parliamentarian’s mass COVID-19 screening comes amidst reports that one of the legislators could have tested positive to the deadly novel coronavirus.
Details of the MP said to have contracted the respiratory disease are yet to be known. However, when Africa Tembelea tried to get in touch with Hellen Kaweesa, the Acting Director Corporate and Public Affairs in Parliament, her known phone number was not going through.
To date, Uganda has registered a cumulative total of 1,043 COVID-19 cases. Out of this number, 1,004 patients that include both Ugandans and Foreigners have since been discharged from various hospitals across the country after they recovered.
Currently, there are 198 active cases on admission, out of whom 172 are Ugandans, 22 foreigners and 4 refugees.
According to the ministry of health, even when foreigners and refugees are admitted in Uganda’s health facilities, their details are however NOT captured in the cumulative confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country.