Traders, scientists lock horns over city arcades

Thursday July 2 2020

Closed shops in an acarde on Kampala Road.

Closed shops in an acarde on Kampala Road. PHOTO BY RACHEL MABALA 

By TONNY ABET

Traders and arcade owners have accused scientists in the Ministry of Health of misleading the President to keep their buildings closed in the wake of Covid-19 instead of focussing on the danger caused by crowded streets.

They say stringent safety measures were put in place before the lockdown and that some of the traders, who have poured on the street as a result of closing arcades, are posing even greater risk than if they were operating from inside the arcades.

Scientists, however, maintain that studies to determine safer ways to reopen arcades are ongoing but that arcades present extremely high risk because of the design that makes social distancing and control of entry and exit of people very difficult.

According to arcade owners, the government has designed standard operating procedures (SOPs), which they are ready to implement, but the government has refused to give them a go-ahead.

The only arcades that are planned to open are Mutaasa Kafeero Plaza and Park View Shopping Centre, which the government said have been selected for a pilot study to assess adherence to SOPs.

Mr Everest Kayondo, the chairperson of Kampala City Traders Association (KACITA), said it is perplexing that although traders in arcades have expressed willingness to adhere to SOPs, the government is unresponsive.
“People [traders in arcades] are badly off and the government seems not to understand. We have pressed and tried all ways but nothing is happening. People are ready to abide by the SOPs,” Mr Kayondo said.

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Mr Kayondo said the SOPs for re-opening of arcades are in place and the government should give all them a chance to reopen and only close those that are not adhering to the standards.

Three weeks ago, Trade minister Amelia Kyambadde and arcade owners met and agreed on a number of SOPs that must be put in place before reopening arcades.
Mr Mansoor Young Matovu, one of the arcades owners, asked the government to reopen arcades to lessen the problem of overcrowding currently in the city. “The shops must be opened very quickly so that we can protect people,” he said.

According to Mr Matovu, a number of people who were operating in the arcades have been forced to move out and sell in the streets. Mr Gideon Kirumira, another arcade owner, said they have put in place everything that the government needs from them to reopen the building.

Scientists speak out
Dr Misaki Wayengera, the head of the ministerial scientific advisory committee on Covid-19, said keeping arcades closed was well thought of by scientists but that other adjustments are being made to respond to the community need.

Asked why other market places that are evidently overcrowded could be allowed to open and arcades closed, he said: “Kikubo [one of the markets in the city] is open ground, arcades are closed buildings. The main issue with arcades is having many entries and exits, so hard to regulate.”

The expert said the associated risk for transmission of Covid-19 in house and in open space vary.
“Arcades will be considered soon, discussions for SOPs for their operations have already taken place and this person should consult with his or her leadership,” he said.

Dr Dan Okello, the director of Public Health and Environment at KCCA, said there is an ongoing process by the government to design specific response strategies for places such as arcades.

Dr Monica Musenero, the senior presidential adviser on epidemics during one of the surveys in the arcades last week, said only two floors on each of the two arcades, will be allowed to operate so that the authorities are able to monitor the situation.

“You need to make some changes before the reopening and the changes include coming up with the innovation to improve the ventilation. We need to be sure of the numbers of people who are going to be in the arcades,” she said.

Ms Amelia, when asked what the government is doing to address the issue of arcades, said: “You should first wait for us”. Cabinet was set to meet over the issue of arcades yesterday.

GOVT POSITION
In his recent address to the nation on the Covid-19 situation, President Museveni directed the minister for Kampala, Ms Betty Amongi, to work with the Health ministry to see how arcades can reopen.Last Friday, Ms Amongi and Ms Kyambadde toured a number of shopping arcades in the city centre.

Ms Amongi said the two arcades [Mutaasa Kafeero Plaza and Park View Shopping Centre] will be temporarily re-opened as pilot projects for authorities who are currently drawing a roadmap on how to fully reopen businesses downtown.

What they say

Rajiv Ruparelia, arcade owner.
“Covid-19 is not going to disappear soon. So the question is how do we operate within its framework and the measures we have put in place are quite simple.”

Gieon Kirumira, arcade owner and son of Kirumira (pictrued). “There is no hardship putting in place those things. We have been doing these things in other places where we do business and even our homes. All owners of arcades are willing to put in place those things.”

Misaki Wayengera, ministerial scientific advisory committee on Covid-19.
“Arcades are closed buildings. The main issue with arcades is having many entries and exits, so hard to regulate.”

Monica Musenero, presidential adviser on epidemics.
«You need to make some changes before the reopening and the changes include coming up with the innovation to improve the ventilation.»

Government unveils guidelines for opening arcades, malls
Government has released draft guidelines to prevent infection with Covid-19 as plans to reopen arcades gets finalised.

According to the government, unlike malls, arcades present a higher risk for contracting coronavirus because of their design that makes social distancing and control of entry and exit of people very difficult.
According to the draft guidelines seen by Daily Monitor, the measures focus on social distancing, screening, hygiene and sanitisation.

All buildings should have functional closed circuit television (CCTV) monitoring systems with minimum of 30 days storage capacity, according to the guidelines.

“No individual shall access these premises without properly putting on a mask. All individuals accessing the premises shall undergo temperature screening. Masks should not be hang on the chin,” the guidelines read in part.

Children under six years will be the only category exempted on mandatory wearing of masks.

“Ensure provision of adequate hand washing facilities with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub. Everyone shall wash and sanitise before entry to these places and as frequently as possible,” the guidelines further read.

Hand washing facilities and alcohol-based sanitisers should be placed at strategic points such as security checks, entrances, bathrooms, toilets, conference rooms, kitchens or canteens and payment points.

“Ensure your work areas are clean and hygienic by regularly cleaning all surfaces with soap and water or JIK, the bathrooms, toilets, floor surfaces, doorknobs or handles, staircase, elevator rails and elevator buttons with disinfectant or soap and water,” the guidelines said.

“For buildings with multiple entry and exits, there shall be designated entry and exit routes. The entry and exit routes shall be manned by peoples to guide movement,” they add.

The other measures include: avoid overcrowding and body contact. Keep a distance of two meters between each other, the number of occupants in the business premises should ensure provision of physical distancing of two meters.

In order to enforce the physical distancing, there shall be clearly demarcated mark points two meters apart where customers will stand before being attended to. One customer will be served at a go

There shall not be temporary structures, makeshift shops or people trading in the corridors and stair cases.
No hawkers or food vendors will be allowed in the building, people carrying luggage shall not use the arcades as passageways; ensure there is good ventilation and good respiratory hygiene in the workplace, and shops and offices in the basements shall not be allowed to operate.

Measure
All buildings should have functional closed circuit television (CCTV) monitoring systems with minimum of 30 days storage capacity, according to the guidelines.

tabet@ug.nationmedia.com

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