KAMPALA, April 14 (Reuters) - President Yoweri Museveni on Tuesday extended Uganda's initial 14-day lockdown by an extra three weeks, until May 5, as part of efforts to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Uganda and Rwanda have imposed a total lockdown in their fight against COVID-19, in east Africa's most stringent response to the infection.
Other countries in the region have preferred to ban or impose restrictions and closures only on sectors with the greatest potential to spread the virus like air and other travel, schools and public gatherings.
"Given...the challenges that remain, the government has decided to keep the stay-home decision for another 21 days," Museveni said in a speech on Tuesday, hours before the initial 14-day lockdown was due to end.
The extra days, he said, "will definitely, help us to defeat this virus decisively, or if not defeated totally, to prepare better as to how to cope with it."
Uganda has so far recorded a total of 54 coronavirus cases but no deaths. Eight patients have recovered.
Authorities are eager to stave off a major outbreak amid fears that a surge in the number of cases would quickly overwhelm a healthcare system that has traditionally been plagued by dysfunction.
Under the lockdown all businesses are shut down except those deemed most essential, such as utilities and food markets.
Movement has been virtually frozen with bans on both private and public transport vehicles while a dusk-to-dawn curfew has been imposed.
The tight lockdown has drawn criticism from rights group that say restrictions may have led to pregnant women losing their unborn babies as they need to obtain special permission to use private means to reach hospitals. (Reporting by Elias Biryabarema; Editing by Omar Mohammed, William Maclean)