KAMPALA, UGANDA – Ugandan authorities have charged six Chinese nationals and two Ugandans with conducting acts likely to spread disease after they allegedly violated a coronavirus quarantine order. The eight men were arrested at a border crossing Sunday as the Chinese nationals allegedly tried to enter the Democratic Republic of Congo. They face a prison sentence of up to seven years if found guilty of the charges.
Authorities say the six Chinese left a Kampala hotel on March 19, five days before completing a mandatory quarantine period meant to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
They were arrested Sunday, in the Zombo district, trying to cross into the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The men have been identified as Huang Haiguiang, Li Chaochyan, Lin Xiaofang, Qin Shening, Liang Xinging, and Huang Wei.
Two Ugandans, Matovu Abdu and Nansuna Swabu, were charged with aiding the Chinese escape from self-quarantine.
Dr. Joyce Moriku Kaducu, state minister for primary health care, said the prosecutions will serve as an example to the 1,800 others currently under quarantine in Uganda.
“They violated the principles of self-isolation and they were intercepted at the border, crossing into Congo. That is along Zombo, in Goli border,” she said. “And they have been brought back under the directives of his excellency, the president. And the president gave a directive that these people should be produced in the courts of law.”
On Saturday, the Ugandan government ordered a 30-day closure of all border entry and exit points after doctors confirmed the country’s first case of COVID-19.
President Yoweri Museveni said the shutdown is designed to protect what he called the base, meaning Uganda and its 42 million people.
Anyone who entered the country before Saturday and came from a nation with high numbers of COVID-19, cases such as China, is required to be placed under mandatory quarantine or self-isolation for 14 days.
President Museveni also ordered police and army units to help monitor the borders, saying that regular border guards and medical personnel were overwhelmed.
“They cannot contain people by themselves,” he said. “They will have to work with army and the police. And we also said we shall not allow people to come in through the gazetted centers and even the hidden ones. We are going to deploy the forces on all those.”
Uganda has experience keeping epidemics at arm’s length, having dealt with multiple deadly outbreaks of Ebola in Congo over the last few years.