Uganda to reopen schools, acquire COVID-19 vaccines

Cabinet had 'approved the recommendations for reopening educational institutions' to all students, spokesman Dennis Katungi said.

FILE: Classroom learning was made partially available to a small number of final year graduates in December. Picture: freeimages.com

KAMPALA - Uganda announced Tuesday the reopening of schools closed nearly a year ago due to the pandemic, and outlined plans to soon start vaccinating essential workers against the coronavirus.

Cabinet had "approved the recommendations for reopening educational institutions" to all students, spokesman Dennis Katungi said. Classroom learning was made partially available to a small number of final year graduates in December.

Students doing their final year examinations would return first, with classes for younger learners reopening from April 6 "in a staggered fashion that will ensure compliance" with social distancing measures in schools, Katungi said.

Preschools would remain closed, while universities and other centres of learning would also be reopened in phases.

Uganda closed schools in March 2020 as coronavirus spread across East Africa. More than 15 million students were sent home, according to the UN's children agency UNICEF.

The country has recorded 39,606 cases and 325 deaths from COVID-19, according to the latest health ministry figures, with new infections surging in the latter months of 2020 before tapering off earlier this year.

The government also said Tuesday it had approved the purchase of 18 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine produced by the Serum Institute of India. No date was provided for when these vaccines were expected to arrive in Uganda.

These initial doses would be prioritised for those aged 50 and above or with underlying health conditions, and for essential workers like frontline medics, security personnel and teachers.

In a statement, the government said Uganda had also been told to expect a tentative delivery of about 3.55 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine through the World Health Organization's Covax initiative "by end of February or March 2021".

A third tranche of unspecific vaccines was expected through an African Union channel, the statement read, without providing specifics.

Uganda last month held nationwide presidential and parliamentary elections despite the pandemic, with campaigning in some districts banned under special coronavirus rules that civil society groups said were selectively applied against the opposition.

Download the Eyewitness News app to your iOS or Android device.