Security agencies yesterday were engaged in running battles with defiant traders in Kampala, and in some cases used heavy-handed tactics to enforce a strict 42-day Covid-19-induced lockdown.
The new lockdown announced by the President on June 18, seeks to prevent a surge in Covid-19 infections and deaths as the country battles a second wave of the pandemic.
The President ordered citizens to stay home as a strategy to contain the spread of the pandemic, and in view of that, suspended public and private transport, closed churches, mosques, educational institutions, Kikuubo business centre and other arcades.
However, by 7am on Saturday, with exception of Kampala Road, other streets were packed with vendors and shop owners selling merchandises to striders. Other traders locked themselves inside their shops and deployed private scouts to monitor security deployments in the city.
At 9am, police assisted by the army and other plain-clothed operatives engaged in running battles with traders and vendors, ordering them to close shops and go back home. They used sticks to clear the streets.
Several people braved the cold weather and walked to the city centre in the face of a strict presidential lockdown.
Those who talked to Sunday Monitor said they were “looking for food” to feed their families and pleaded with the President to review what they called “a painful lockdown.”
While giving a televised keynote address on the Covid-19 situation on Friday night, President Museveni stated that there was need to preserve and protect lives and the healthcare system in the country.
“In order to achieve strategic objectives, starting 10pm, June 18, I am revising and updating all the directives I issued on June 6,” President Museveni partly said during his address.
The President noted that over the past three weeks, the daily number of people testing positive for Covid-19 had increased from less than 100 to more than 1,700, hence representing a 17-fold increase in daily cases.
Unlike last year when the airport was closed after Uganda confirmed its first case of Covid-19 on March 22, this time round, the facility will remain open.
“But we shall ensure no virus or new variants enter Uganda,” Mr Museveni emphasised during his address.
And because the country is landlocked, the President emphasised that all cargo movements to and out of Uganda will be allowed without disruption. This includes cargo truck drivers at land-border crossings who will first be tested and allowed to move. Their movements will be followed up at the designated seclusion areas.
The issue of allowing in truck drivers is, however, stirring debate among a section of Ugandans, with some saying they should not be allowed into the country. Last year, the country registered Covid-19 cases mainly involving truck drivers from neighboring countries. In May, 2020 (within a period of three weeks), the cases of coronavirus jumped from 55 to 98 as a result of truck drivers.
Other affected businesses
Like last year, President Museveni directed that Kikuubo and other business centres remain closed. He was not however clear on which business centres should be shut.
Kikuubo, is one of the biggest and crowded general merchandise area in downtown Kampala with traders from all parts of the country making daily visits to the place to purchase commodities.
Many times, it is difficult to observe the SOPs while here because of the big crowds hence the President’s directive to have the vicinity closed for 42 days.
Other places that will remain suspended for this period of time are bars, disco halls, betting centres, places of worship and sports event facilities.
Mr Isaac Kajooba, a bar owner in Kireka, a suburb located in the outskirts of the city centre says it is unfair that the president is continuing to close bars.
“It is coming to two years and the President does not want to allow us operate. How does he expect us to continue surviving? Life is difficult for us bar owners,” he says.
On the issue of burials, Mr President noted that attendance will be restricted to core family members.
Like last year, food market vendors will be allowed to operate during the lockdown period but stay in their respective work places.
In Banda Market, located in the outskirts of the city centre, some of the women who spoke to Sunday Monitor stated that they have already bought mosquito nets since they will be spending the nights at their workstations.
The education sector
In the revised directives, Mr Museveni also ordered learning institutions to remain closed for a 42 day period.
● Private hospitals in the country are charging Shs5m per day to treat a Covid-19 patient but the President remained silent on this issue. What’s the government plan to help struggling families?
● The President instituted a lockdown as one of the measures to reduce the current pressure in hospitals but didn’t spell out the immediate government plan to deal with the current oxygen crisis in the country.
● The President said Kikuubo, the biggest general crowded merchandise area in downtown, should be closed. But, this area supplies many retail shops across the country. So, where then should retailers purchase their merchandise from?
● If Entebbe airport remains open and one has a flight to catch, how will they be able to move if public and private means of transport have been banned?
● If curfew starts at 7pm and ends at 5.30am, what happens if one gets an emergency between curfew hours?
● The President talked about relief food for vulnerable families, particularly in Kampala, how about the hand-to-mouth groups in other cities whose businesses have been greatly affected by the 42 period lockdown?
● For those allowed to move, including the 20 people attending burials, can they move past curfew hours?
● The President did not mention anything specific on those planning to wed during the 42 day lockdown period. What happens to them?
Lockdown: Reactions from stakeholders
Fred Enanga, Police Spokesperson
The President told the Prime Minister to simplify the new lockdown guides for the public, you can find out from them but for us as police and other security agencies, we’re enforcing the presidential directives as they came out in the speech without further interpretations and we are asking the public to join us in the war against the pandemic.”
Joseph Mabutu, Chairman, Regional Buses Association
In the lockdown situation, there is nothing much we can do. We just follow the guidelines issued by the government because the situation is bad. We shall make adjustments when the situation normalises and we shall seek government support.”
Fred Bamwesigye, MD, Uganda Civil Aviation Authority
Some of the guidelines are not practical. In reality, you cannot open the airport and ban movement of vehicles. When visitors or returnees leave the airport, how will they reach their homes since even the airport taxis have been stopped from carrying passengers?”
Wilbrod Owor, ED, Uganda Bankers Association
We have a moratorium which allows people with loans to apply and restructure the repayment period by extending it. We all know these are tough times.”
Daniel Burundi, ED, Uganda Manufacturers Association
We shall give proper guidance to our members on how manufacturing should continue even under lockdown. We need to put in place measures to continue working without compromising SOPs. We are working on movement permits to enable those who are constrained to move to continue operating.”
Stephen Muhwezi, Chairman, Uganda Long Distance and Heavy Truck Drivers Association
We are going back to a same situation like that of last year when our drivers were being chased away from trading centres and towns. Our drivers resorted to cooking from [truck] cabins because they couldn’t go into hotels and towns and yet we are classified as frontline workers. We need protective gear and training in SOPs.”
Joseph Rudasi, chairman Nakawa Market
We started registering people who are going to sleep in the market and we have closed the non-food sections of the market. Covid-19 is killing people and as leaders in the market, we are doing all humanly possible to protect traders, as well as our clients.”
Susan Muhwezi, chairperson, Hotel Owners Association
We have sent some workers home because guests are few. But the major thing for Ugandans is to stay alive. We have told our members that they cannot do business when they are dead. In 2020, hotels and bars were closed and we lost revenue. We know that Covid-19 is deadly and we appreciate the Presidents concern.”
Nathan Byanyima, Chairman Bus Owners Association
We are willing to abide by the directives because the disease is deadly to us all and requires concerted efforts to fight back. If people, die who shall we be transporting? Our worry is the cost of living.”
Khadijah Nakiwala, Salon owner
The President did not give us a chance to prepare for it. It is going to be very tough for families that live hand-to- mouth. Businesses are closed yet people don’t have food. The government should intervene before it’s too late. How does government plan to help people who cannot afford the exorbitant Covid treatment charges? ”
Lily Ajarova, ED, Uganda Tourism Board
Right now we are dealing with everyone’s safety. Protecting lives is our priority. The good thing is that tourists are travelling amid the restrictions and their major destination is the game parks. There is lockdown but everyone is concerned about lives first.”
Closed for next 42 days
● Public and private transport banned
● Passenger boda boda services banned, not to operate beyond 5pm
● Mosques and churches closed
● All sports events/games banned
● Curfew back to 7pm- 5.30pm
● All educational situations closed
● Non-cargo cross border movement suspended
● Inter-district travel banned
● Kikuubo/arcades/business centres closed.
● Non-food markets closed
● Movement from markets to homes banned
● Factory workers to stay at workplaces (where possible)
● Mass burials banned- restricted to core family members
● Wedding ceremonies banned
● Bars closed for 42 days
● Discos banned for 42 days
● Hotels closed for 42 days
● Sports betting banned for 42 days
● None-core ministries closed for next 42 days
● Boda bodas banned on all roads beyond 5pm.
● All other sectors (not mentioned) closed
Allowed to operate
● Doctors/nurses/ pharmacists/ essential health workers
● Sick people in need of medical care
● Journalists/mass media
● Factories and construction sites
● Emergency vehicles (police, army/ essential workers)
● Food markets allowed to operate
● National parks will not close
● Registered tourist vehicles
● Boda bodas, taxis to carry sick people to hospitals
● Private cars carrying sick people to hospitals
● Cargo trucks/ pickups
● Kampala, Wakiso, Mukono not affected by inter-district ban
● Entebbe International Airport will remain open
● Cargo flights in and outside Uganda allowed
● Cargo truck drivers to be tested and allowed to cross the border
● Agriculture will continue
● 20 Core family members allowed to bury the dead
● Health and medical services,
● Security (police and army),
● Utilities (water, electricity, telecoms, banking institutions, garbage/waste management
● Retail shops and markets
Who is in charge?
1. Police, LDUs & army
2. LCIs, RDCs and doctors
● To issue movement permits
3. Office of the Prime Minister
● Review essential workers list
● Ensure vulnerable groups get food relief
● Coordinate Covid-19 taskforces
● To work with ministries of Public Service and
that of Health to re-define the non-core govt agencies
4 Health ministry
● Ensure no virus, or new variants enter Uganda
● To evacuate sick people from communities
● Reactivate Village Health Teams (VHTs)
● Sensitise communities on virus
● Managing Covid-19 burials
● Testing for Covid-19
● Overseeing Covid-treatment
● Monitoring home-based care
● Ensuring constant oxygen supply to hospitals
5 KCCA & URA
● To close and seal off all errant bars and revoke their licences.
6 Local Government
● Support the Regional Task Forces (RTFs) and
District Task Forces (DTFs) to enforce compliance of all SOPs.
7 Finance ministry
8 Works and Transport ministry