On March 15, cabinet passed a resolution to hire a number of hotels in Kampala and across the country to work as quarantine centers as the country’s health experts prepared to combat the Coronavirus pandemic in case it is confirmed in Uganda.
The decision to search for these hotels was prompted by Ministry of Health’s request that travelers arriving in Uganda both nationalities and foreigners needed to be put under mandatory quarantine for 14 days as their health would be monitored.
This was at a time, foreign countries especially Italy, Spain, USA, France, and several other African nations had started registering rising number of COVID-19 infections and deaths.
At the time, travelers entering Uganda were only quarantined at Central Inn, a hotel in Entebbe and the numbers were gradually overwhelming.
It must be noted that that time, Uganda hadn’t registered its first case.
As Central Inn became full Ministry of Health took travelers to Imperial Royale Hotel in Entebbe, but the owner Karim Hirji rejected them saying he wasn’t ready to host COVID-19 suspects.
The travelers were then taken to Metropole Hotel in Kololo but management rejected them.
The argument was if these hotels agreed to host the travelers who were perceived as COVID-19 suspects, they would lose clientele.
Against that backdrop, cabinet in a confidential memo seen by this website then tasked State Minister for Tourism Godfrey Kiwanda to search for cheap facilities in Kampala and across Uganda where government would be able to place the travelers who were pouring in Uganda for mandatory quarantine.
Cabinet chose Kiwanda because with his docket because he is conversant with accomodation facilities in the country.
This website understands that many hotel owners in Kampala were not ready to risk allowing COVID-19 suspects in their hotels.
Minister Kiwanda thus entered in agreement with Kingdom Katomi Hotel along Entebbe which belongs to prof. Gilbert Bukenya, Nyumbani Hotel in Kikoni Makerere that is owned by Minister Frank Tumwebaze, Grand Global Hotel and Douglas Villa Hostel owned by former Minister Nyombi Tembo.
Therefore, all travelers who arrived in Uganda at a time the country was on high COVID-19 alert were quarantined in these hotels-turned facilities.
It is therefore misleading to involve Ministry of Health officials particularly Permanent Secretary Dr. Diana Atwine in the process of awarding tenders to hotels for quarantine as falsely published by an online news outlet on Monday.
The publication alleged that Atwine ensured her sister Florence Tumwebaze, whose business-Nyumbani Hotel in Kikoni scooped the quarantine deal.
However, the story lacks substantial evidence proving that Atwine used influence- peddling to give Florence who is wife to Gender Minister Frank Tumwebaze a deal.
This website has since established that the article was sponsored to cast the Permanent Secretary in bad light and also settle scores considering that Atwiine and her team at the Ministry have vigorously worked to ensure the health and safety and all Ugandans remains a priority in the these turbulent times.
The progress Minister of Health has undertaken in COVID-19 with little resources availed to them leaves many Ugandans (with ill motive unhappy).
Instead, the owners of these hotels who braved to accommodate COVID-19 suspects and risk losing business should be applauded as many other owners refused to host them since the disease comes with stigma.