Paper: COVID-19 and the law in Uganda: a case study on development and application of the public health act from 2020 to 2021



Despite the discovery of vaccines, the control, and prevention of Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) relied on non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs). This article describes the development and application of the Public Health Act to implement NPIs for COVID-19 pandemic control in Uganda.


This is a case study of Uganda’s experience with enacting COVID-19 Rules under the Public Health Act Cap. 281. The study assessed how and what Rules were developed, their influence on the outbreak progress, and litigation. The data sources reviewed were applicable laws and policies, Presidential speeches, Cabinet resolutions, statutory instruments, COVID-19 situation reports, and the registry of court cases that contributed to a triangulated analysis.


Uganda applied four COVID-19 broad Rules for the period March 2020 to October 2021. The Minister of Health enacted the Rules, which response teams, enforcement agencies, and the general population followed. The Presidential speeches, their expiry period and progress of the pandemic curve led to amendment of the Rules twenty one (21) times. The Uganda Peoples Defense Forces Act No. 7 of 2005, the Public Finance Management Act No. 3 of 2015, and the National Policy for Disaster Preparedness and Management supplemented the enacted COVID-19 Rules. However, these Rules attracted specific litigation due to perceived infringement on certain human rights provisions.


Countries can enact supportive legislation within the course of an outbreak. The balance of enforcing public health interventions and human rights infringements is an important consideration in future. We recommend public sensitization about legislative provisions and reforms to guide public health responses in future outbreaks or pandemics.

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