We need long-term answers to Covid-19

Wednesday June 24 2020

Deserted. Women walk past closed shopping

Deserted. Women walk past closed shopping arcades on Lumum Street, Kampala, recently. Before the lockdown, this area was one of the busiest business hubs in Kampala. PHOTO BY ISMAIL KEZAALA  

By Editor

The government yesterday prolonged indefinitely lockdown measures on hawking, schools, churches, arcades, salons, bars and lodges. But this piece-meal and undefined timeframe in planning our responses to stop Covid-19 will soon prove costly.

Already, boda boda cyclists are carrying passengers despite the ban. Salons are operating behind closed doors right in the hearts of towns. These defiant disregard of regulations and dangers of Covid-19 is forced by struggle to survive among our citizens.

There are millions of mouths out there going hungry because the bodas, arcades, salons, private universities, private secondary and primary schools that previously employed and supported families have been shut for more than 95 days now.

Of course, there is no doubt the lockdown have been useful in the short run. But with the forecast that Covid-19 won’t go away any time soon, government must quickly and clearly provide clear best and worst case scenarios on how to live with the coronavirus disease.

In neighbouring Kenya, President Uhuru Kenyatta directed on Saturday that a new school calendar be made and released by mid-August; other factors holding constant. Kenya’s national exams that had been scheduled for November will now be administered in February 2021, also all other factors remaining constant.

In Tanzania, universities and other institutions of higher learning reopen on 1 June, while primary and secondary schools will remain shut. Our comparison is not to pressure government to walk the same paths of Kenya and Tanzania. Nevertheless, our call is for government to offer both short-term and long-term answers to Ugandans groaning under the weight of Covid-19.

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In homes, parents are stranded with millions of restless young minds. These pupils and students are emotionally stressed. Some had national exams; both Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE), and Uganda Certificate of Education (UCE) scheduled for November.

Similarly, our universities, both government-run and private-owned are ushering a new academic year in September, but there is no clear public guidance or any tentative plans for them. Yet these parents, pupils and students need to be reassured of when they are likely to resume normal routine.

Finally, the call by President Museveni to the ministries of Education, and of Gender, Labour, and Social Development to register for relief people affected by the lockdown is commendable, but comes late.

Even when battling Covid-19 is in our own hands, the bodas, arcades, bars and salon operators need more durable solutions to resume their trade or be helped to transition to other less vulnerable livelihoods.

The relief should only be to help them stabilise, but long-term answers to their survival during the Covid-19 pandemic is demanded.

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