Covid crisis: What next after easing lockdown?

Saturday July 31 2021
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Boda boda riders are now allowed to carry one passenger but both should be wearing masks. PHOTO/RACHEL MABALA

By Tonny Abet

President Museveni last night lifted some of the lockdown restrictions, but kept schools, bars, places of worship and seasonal markets closed, saying they will be reopened after sufficient vaccination of eligible people.

 Mr Museveni, in a televised address to the nation yesterday, with threats of reversing the decision if Covid-19 prevention measures are not adhered to, lifted restrictions on public transport where each vehicle, starting Monday, will strictly carry 50 per cent of its capacity to prevent the spread of the virus.

 Private cars were allowed to carry three people and boda boda cyclists were permitted to carry one passenger.

 He reopened the trade sector, permitting Kikuubo, one of the most crowded business centres in Kampala, arcades and malls and traders across the country to reopen shops.

 The President said he considered easing the lockdown measures following a decline in the number of infections and hospitalisations, economic effects of the lockdown and the projections from National Planning Authority (NPA) and advice from scientists. 

The partial lifting of the lockdown happened a day after the country completed the 42-day second lockdown that was instituted after a drastic increase in Covid-19 cases and hospitalisations.

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Mr Museveni, in his roughly two-hour address, tagged the reopening of schools on the vaccine coverage.

 “Schools will remain closed until sufficient vaccination of the eligible population and children aged 12-18 years old has taken place,” he said.

This comes against the backdrop of mounting pressure from United Nations that schools should be reopened to ensure continuity of learning for children.

 Yesterday’s pronouncement left many people questioning given the low number of people vaccinated so far as the country struggles with limited access to the life-saving jabs as developed countries hoard the vaccines.

Although some activists, citing the recent gifting of Members of Parliament with more than Shs100 billion to purchase new cars and then new Ipads, say the government has not got enough vaccines due to poor prioritisation, low financing and limited attention given to access the jabs.

 As of yesterday, the total number of people vaccinated in the country was at 1,143,763, which is only 5 per cent of the target to vaccinate 21.9 million people, excluding children. The President also said the government will vaccinate children aged 12-18 years, meaning the size of the eligible population he talked about will increase greatly.

 The President, however, said in addition to increasing efforts to procure vaccines and the hope of getting the jabs through donations, the country is planning to manufacture its own vaccines. He said earlier that the locally manufactured vaccines would be ready by end of this year to save the country from dependency.

 The Minister of Health said yesterday that the government has availed Shs681.5 billion for Covid-19 vaccines.

 The partial lifting of the lockdown means many Ugandans such as teachers, bar owners and workers who suffered job losses due to prolonged lockdown or are grappling with hunger and other frustrations, will have to endure the pain for a little longer until the government reconsiders.

 This limitation on the transport sector means the fare will remain significantly high, amid decline in income levels among Ugandans, as it has been since the government started implementing the measure of limiting the number of passengers, last year.

 Stimulus for struggling businesses

The President said Shs200 billion will be availed to struggling businesses. But last year many businesses complained that they didn’t get the stimulus package that government said it availed in banks.

 “The Ministry of Finance working with Bank of Uganda, will mobilise low cost credit for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). The government will as a first step, immediately raise Shs100 billion through further budget rationalisation, and participating Financial Institutions will equally contribute Shs100 billion. This brings total resources available for MSMEs to Shs200 billion,” he said.

 He added that the minister of Finance will prepare and announce details and guidelines for this support within two weeks from today.

 The President warned of a possibility of a third wave if people stop adhering to preventive measures.

Mr Museveni said the government has also made significant progress in supporting vulnerable people affected by the lockdown. Whereas the government rolled out cash relief to more than 500,000 people, some beneficiaries [34,000] missed out on account of registration glitches and other inconsistencies. Most of the vulnerable people or the hand-to-mouth groups were not considered and Opposition appeals to increase the number of beneficiaries were ignored.

 “I have been informed that as of Friday, July 30, 2021, 500,945 beneficiaries out of the target of 501,107 (99.97 percent) had been uploaded on the online registration system. A total of 462,387 (92.3 per cent) beneficiaries had been verified and paid by Post Bank as of today. This totalled to Shs47,429,346,525.

 The balance of 38,558 persons (7.7 per cent) has been deferred for various reasons which are still under review by the town clerks before resubmission for payment,” Mr Museveni said.

Summary

-Curfew time remains.

-Boda bodas can operate upto 6pm with one passenger maintain SOPs

- Kikuubo open, no roadside vending.

-Traders adopt E commerce.

-Malls and acardes open but meet all SOPs and conditions.

- 20 people for burials.

-20 people for weddings.

-Place of worship remain closed until 60 days.

-Out door sports allowed with SOPs no spectators...individual sports allowed. indoor games remain closed.

-Concerts and artists virtually.

- Bars closed.

-Restaurants remain closed.

-Saloons open on SOPs.

-Saunas closed.

-Schools remain closed until vaccination of students is done.

- Learning continues virtually.

-MDAs workers 20%.

-Private vehicles allowed with three people.

-Movement in and out Entebbe airport open.

-UPDF to check covid papers at Entebbe.

- Public transport allowed by Monday 50 per cent full reviewed after 2 weeks. But SOPs should be followed.

-Food markets remain open but SOPs should be followed.

-Seasonal markets remain closed.

-Conferemces and seminars remain banned but can work with permission from the Ministry  of health.

- Low cost credit for micro finance for MSMEs Shs200b within two weeks.

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