WHY HOTELS ARE FIGHTING EACH OTHER AHEAD OF 4000 UGANDA RETURNEES WHO HAVE AGREED TO PAY FOR QUARANTINE FEES
By Goodluck Musinguzi
In the coming days the effects of lock-down are going to be felt among Ugandans as different sectors compete for the few resources available. Its going to be bloody in terms of blackmail , undercutting prices and bribery.
Uganda like other Nations faced unprecedented challenge from coronavirus pandemic. The strain on governments was extreme and the impact on people around the world continues as countries ease on lockdowns.
When Uganda classified Nations as high risk, low risk and none risk a situation was born out of this measure. Nationals or Ugandans coming from high risk nations had to be quarantined. Uganda’s cabinet discussed the matter and decided that individuals would pay their own bills at gazetted hotels.
Oryem Nyeko, a researcher with Human Rights Watch Africa Division wrote an article detailing the cost paid by the first passengers.
“Ugandans are being forced to pay for their own mandatory quarantines under new measures announced by the government this week.
On Wednesday, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni announced several measures that the country will be taking to combat the spread of the COVID-19 virus, including a mandatory 14-day quarantine for Ugandans coming in to the country from any one of 17 countries considered “high risk”.
The quarantines are happening in hotels designated by the government in Entebbe, about an hour from Kampala, but will be paid for by the citizens themselves.
Since the mandatory quarantine began, about 40 travelers have been forced to pay up to US$840 to stay in the Central Inn hotel, a cost that is excessive for most Ugandans. Witnesses have said that people unable to pay the hotel fees have been forced to sleep in the lobby of the hotel, while others have been stranded at the airport.
When cabinet sat Hon Godfrey Kiwanda Suubi , State Minister of Tourism was given duty of indentifying hotels that would be gazetted. We tried to reach him on his mobile phone but promised to return our calls.
Oryem Nyeko further advised the government of Uganda and other Nations dealing with health emergencies.
“During public health threats and emergencies, governments may make restrictions on rights when strictly necessary. However, these restrictions must be neither arbitrary nor discriminatory, but proportionate and necessary based on scientific evidence, respectful of human dignity, and subject to review. While quarantining people, governments should also ensure access to food, water, health care, and care-giving support”.
Forcing returning Ugandans to pay to stay in hotels with fees they cannot afford doesn’t meet the criteria above and creates hardship for many people who just want to return home. During his speech, Museveni told Ugandans that if they want to avoid the “inconvenience or cost” they should stay away from their own country.
During this crisis it is important the Ugandan government respect its citizens’ rights, not create opportunities to exploit them.
Upon such criticisms and voices from many Ugandans, government decided to open up quarantine places in Kampala city because many hotel Managers were willing to reduce the price from $150 to $55 and $50.
Among the hotels was Nyumbani Hotel owned by Florence Tumwebaze, Grand Global, Douglas Villas owned by Nyombi Thembo were chosen as acceptable and available by the Ministry of Health. Some wealth families chose Emin Pasha where Hon Molly Kamukama former Principal Private Secretary and now Minister of State Economic Monitoring chose for her children.
Government came under more pressure from parliament, media and public on social media wondering why not take responsibility to pay these charges for whoever got quarantined.These hotels are yet to be paid despite having fed people for so many days.
QUARANTINE HOTEL POLITICS IN UGANDA
The government of Uganda will apply the principles of transparency, accountability, and participation to the COVID-19 response. It is in moments of disaster response and relief that the values of open government can come under intense pressure, but can also meaningfully contribute to better outcomes.
Dr Diana Atwine, the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Health is seen as running the biggest budget in Uganda and has to suffer blackmail. Most companies that want tenders are resorting to blackmail after failing to get contracts.
As 4000 Ugandans return home hotels will be disappointed because individuals will pay for themselves. Those over charging will loose business opportunities.
Ministry of Health has closed 16 quarantine centres in Entebbe municipality.Majority of the quarantine centres were hotels and guesthouses. They included Entebbe Central Inn, Imperial Botanical Beach hotel, Imperial Golf View hotel and Protea hotel.
Others were Migingo Suites, Acacia Boutique hotel, Dairy Institute and the Fisheries Training Institute which hosted some of the suspects. The Fisheries Institute closed the quarantine on Monday after all the 30 suspects who tested negative for COVID-19 were discharged.
Captain Dr David Magoba, the in-charge of the quarantine centres in Entebbe, says the only quarantine centre in the area is at Survey and Land Management Institute where 17 suspects are quarantined.
The suspects include eight police officers, two military officers and the people who had contact with a woman who tested positive from the institute.
With only one active quarantine centre, some of the managers of the hotels say they are now disinfecting their premises and will resume normal business after the lockdown. These include the Imperial Botanical Beach hotel and Imperial Golf View hotel.
A supervisor at Imperial Beach hotel, who spoke on condition of anonymity, says the hotel was closed as soon as all the 58 suspects were discharged. The hotel has 239 rooms and usually had a 70 per cent occupancy rate before the outbreak of the COVID-19.