Uganda’s president Yowreri Museveni on Friday introduced sweeping new anti-coronavirus measures including a ban on all vehicular movement except for essential workers to help curb a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic gripping the nation.

The east African country, like most other African peers had been left relatively unscathed by the first wave. It suddenly started experiencing a steep surge in COVID-19 infections in May after authorities confirmed they had detected presence of the coronavirus variant first detected in India.

“The country has seen a more aggressive and sustained growth of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Museveni said in a televised address.

He said the daily number of people testing positive has jumped to over 1 700 from less than 100 just three weeks ago.

“We are experiencing very high hospitalisation rates and deaths for COVID-19 patients among all age categories.”

In new measures to curb the pandemic, he banned movement of both public and private vehicles except those transporting patients and those used by essential workers like health workers.

An existing curfew that began at 9pm was brought forward to 7pm, while venues like busy shopping centres, churches and sports arenas were closed.

The new restrictions, Museveni said, will last 42 days.

To date, Uganda has registered a total of 68 778 COVID-19 cases and 542 deaths. Over the last two weeks, local media has extensively reported most health facilities, both public and private, getting full and turning away patients while others have had oxygen supplies taxed.

The new restrictions could undermine a fragile economic recovery from the blow inflicted by 2020’s lockdown.

Those restrictions contributed to a 1.1% economic contraction in 2020, but the finance ministry had projected before Friday’s new measures that growth would climb to 4.3% in the fiscal year starting July.

Uganda starts next phase of COVID-19 vaccination: