Uganda: the impact of the pandemic on immigration rules

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Lilian Keene-Mugerwa
Kleeva Associated Advocates, Kampala
liliankeene@kleevallp.com

The Uganda Public Health (Notification of Covid-19) Order No. 2 of 2020 declared Covid-19 a notifiable disease under Section 10 of the Public Health Act, Cap 281. The changes in Uganda migration rules commenced with the Public Health (Prohibition of Entry into Uganda) Order, SI No 53 of 2020, which prohibited the entry into Uganda by any person, the introduction of any animal, article, or thing at or through any of the border posts of Uganda with effect from 23 March 2020. 

Order 3 provides for examination of any person arriving in Uganda by a medical officer for Covid-19.

Order 4 provides for a medical officer on examination of a person to hold such person in isolation, at a place designated for that purpose if he/she is suffering from Covid-19. Order 4(2) provides that a person who transits through Uganda or who has not been granted authority to enter Uganda by an immigration officer under the law relating to immigration, shall, at the end of the isolation period or quarantine period under paragraph 6, be removed from, or exit Uganda, at their expense.

Order 6 provides for quarantining of persons for a minimum of 14 days as may be prescribed by the medical officer based on the countries of departure and transit and any other factors as may be determined by a medical officer.

Order 8 stipulates that any person who contravenes any requirement under the Order commits an offence and is liable to imprisonment for a period not exceeding three months. Where an operator of a vehicle, aircraft or vessel contravenes the Order or makes a statement knowing it to be false, they commit an offence and are liable to imprisonment for a period not exceeding 12 months.

In addition, the Public Health (Control of Covid-19) No 2 (Amendment No 2) Rules 2020, Rule 8A, provides for every person to always wear a face mask while outside their place of residence.

The impact of Covid-19 has been devastating through loss of lives, jobs, closure of businesses, restrictions in travel and in the entire hospitality industry, affecting nearly every aspect of life. The requirements for medical check-up on arrival, Covid-19 tests and certificates, and quarantine for 14 days are some of the alterations to immigration rules which are likely to become permanent. Although Uganda is still in the early stages of rolling out Covid-19 vaccination, it has previously faced resistance to vaccination programs. With low infection rates, vaccination may be resisted and treated with suspicion. Thus, Covid-19 tests, vaccine certificates, quarantines and masks are likely to remain part of migration rules. This can be compared to yellow fever vaccination, which is required for entry to many countries across Africa.

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