About 50 Ugandan legislators and their staff members tested positive for COVID-19 this week after a trip to Tanzania. A spokesman for Uganda’s parliament says the infections were unavoidable given Tanzania’s relaxed attitude toward the disease.
The group was in Arusha for the East African Legislative Assembly games, a friendly sports event hosted by Tanzania for the region's parliaments.
Chris Obore, spokesperson for Uganda’s parliament, was among the contingent that was in Arusha for the two-week long event.
Obore says upon returning to Uganda, the group took COVID-19 tests twice, both in Arusha and at the Malaba border point, because they anticipated infections.
“Because Uganda and Tanzania have different approaches to COVID fight. There are no SOP [Standard operating procedures], there are no masks, there’s no nothing. And yet the games are interactive. There’s contact. There’s no way Uganda would have escaped. For us who were wearing masks they even think we are sick. They see you wearing a mask, they know these are Ugandans,” he said.
The tournament included events such as a walk race, football, netball, golf, athletics, tug-of-war and volleyball and athletics.
The games brought together the national parliaments of Tanzania, Burundi, Kenya and Uganda. Rwanda and South Sudan abstained from the games with apologies. Asked why Uganda did not skip the games, Obore says the government didn’t want to start a political feud with a neighboring country.
About 50 Ugandan legislators and staff members tested positive for COVID-19 upon returning home.
Health Ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Ainebyoona said the ministry is working with parliament to ensure the infected legislators and staff do not spread the disease.
“That’s why we even assisted in retesting them. We have to first sequence them before we conclude what kind of variant they have. They might be the normal Covid cases of the strains we’ve been registering,” he noted.
For more than a year after the pandemic started, Tanzania’s government insisted COVID-19 was not present in the country, and still does not collect data on the number of cases and deaths from the disease.
Uganda has recorded about 130,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and nearly 3,300 deaths since March 2020.
As of December 20, 502 new cases of COVID-19 were recorded including 25 cases of the new variant, Omicron.