By Moses Mulondo
The minister for health, Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng, has today appeared before the Parliament Health Committee to defend the Public Health (Amendment) Bill, which seeks to criminalise the concealment of infectious diseases such as COVID-19.
“The amendment will facilitate the implementation of the International Health Regulations (2005) in Uganda by supporting the prevention, protection against, and control of the international spread of disease while avoiding unnecessary interference with international traffic and trade,” Aceng told the committee.
The minister explained that the Bill would also align the public laws with the current public health surveillance and response structure and procedures outlined in the National Technical Guidelines for Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response.
Section 19 of the Bill seeks to amend Section 27 of the current Act to compulsorily require the divulging of information, including name, dwelling place, and mobile phone number, of a person who is suspected to be having an infectious disease for tracing purposes
The minister noted that the current Public Health Act was enacted in the colonial days in 1935 and, therefore, not congruent with the current challenges and realities in fighting infectious diseases.
“The amendment introduces updated penalties, harmonised laws on immunisation and affirms the role of the central government in control of epidemics. This will progress the already achieved successes. Uganda has made great strides in responding to several disease outbreaks like Ebola viral diseases, HIV/AIDS, Cholera, TB, malaria and so on,” the minister elaborated.
The Bill states that those who are found to be in concealment of infectious disease as declared by the Health Minister risk one year in jail or a fine of sh3m or both such imprisonment and fine, should the new amendments pass.
Section 19 of the Bill seeks to amend Section 27 of the current Act to compulsorily require the divulging of information, including name, dwelling place, and mobile phone number, of a person who is suspected to be having an infectious disease for tracing purposes.
The Public Health Amendment Bill seeks to penalise parents with six months in jail and sh4m or either, for failing to present their children for vaccination or revaccination.
The Bill further states that school administrators who admit students without evidence of vaccination against a disease as required by the Minister of Health commit an offence and will, as the amendment suggests, suffer sh4m and six months in prison or either of the penalties.