Lockdown in Uganda is still on much as the president announced opening some businesses and schools. In the recent national address on Monday evening, Mr Museveni mentioned a list of adjustments in the current lockdown, most of which will take effect after two weeks when the government will be able to supply face masks to every Ugandan above 6 years of age.
This is going to be a very big, expensive process that will meet serious challenges as well. It is also unlikely that the government will be able to fulfill the promise. The public remained confused about whether it will be illegal to move out of home without a government mask. The mixed public reaction by Tuesday morning prompted the president to schedule another national address Tuesday evening to clarify his statements. Upon clarification, it clearly turned out that the adjustments he made will take effect two weeks from now (June 4th), while others like public transport will open after 21 days.
It is still illegal to drive private vehicles and after distribution of face masks, no personal car will carry more than 3 people (the driver inclusive). Schools will open after the 4th of June to receive only candidate students and the ministry of education is expected to plan how that will be done effectively. Public transport will not open until 21 days from now, and so how students will report to school remains a big question.
Also, all districts that boarder neighboring countries are not going to allow personal vehicles to move even when the government distributes masks. And that complicates the issue of opening schools further. Some students study from other districts and there are international students as well, so keeping a ban on public transport keeps them out of school.
However, many Ugandans are not necessarily taking precautions as the government expects them to. Traffic jam is noticeably rising again in Kampala city. Private vehicles are more on the streets every new day. People bribe police officers on roadblocks and even those that are arrested pay money to get released without trial in court. People no longer wash their hands as much as they used to two months ago.
Some crazy Ugandans have gone a step further to forge travel documents that identify them as health workers and other essential government workers! Others drive trucks to access their workplaces. Trucks are allowed to move for cargo transportation and are not supposed to carry more than two people. A number of ambulance drivers have been arrested for using the vehicles to transport passengers around the city instead of patients.
Hotels and food restaurants can now operate provided they will keep social distancing rules. The tourism sector remains closed until further notice. The president raised concerns about possible transmission of the virus to animals like gorillas, and said they will review safety measures once international travel opens.
Kenyans rioted on the streets after extension of lockdown a couple of weeks ago. Some Ugandans took to social media to voice how Uganda too would end up in riots if President Museveni extended lockdown. But that hasn’t happened and there’s generally peace in every part of the country.
The prime minister’s office, backed by some government officials, released a statement calling upon all CEOs to deduct shillings10,000 from all salary earners as a contribution to the coronavirus campaign. This was met with serious criticism especially after the government paid off shillings 40 million to each of the 400 legislators in our parliament as an appreciation for their fight against coronavirus! That is ridiculous because now the government is crying about lack of funds.
The problem with lockdown is that other problems that people are faced with are still claiming lives. In Kampala today, a pregnant woman died while walking to hospital after experiencing bleeding. It is said that she tried contacting someone with a vehicle, but the person could not reach in time. In Uganda, such deaths have been there even before Covid-19. However, it is now possible that up to 10 women can die in a day because of pregnancy related complications.
Let’s continue praying for one another and for our leaders to act with compassion and wisdom. However long this takes, it shall come to pass.