Museveni opens public transport, relaxes restrictions against boda boda operations

Saturday July 31 2021
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President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni. PHOTO/PPU

By DAVID VOSH AJUNA
By Nobert Atukunda

President Museveni last evening eased lockdown restrictions following the advice of scientists and projections from National Planning Authority (NPA).
In the revised Covid-19 measures, the President lifted inter-district travel ban on private cars and allowed taxis, buses and boda boda cyclists operate at 50 per cent capacity. Public transport resumes on Monday but with strict adherence to Covid-19 guidelines. The President has also warned that any violation of SOPs would directly send public transport and other reopened sectors back into lockdown.  

“Public transport will resume operation on Monday (August 2, 2021) but at 50 per cent capacity of passengers with strict observance of SOPs. This will be reviewed after two weeks. Noncompliance of SOPs will lead to suspension of public transport,” President Museveni said in his address on Friday.
Curfew hours starts at 7pm and ends at 5:30am. However, boda boda cyclists have been authorized to carry only one passenger and their curfew time has been moved from 5pm to 6pm. 

President Museveni had suspended public transport and only allowed boda bodas to carry language or patients who have only received permission from Local Council (LC) one, Resident District Commissioner (RDC) or health worker.
President said, “Why do we maintain the curfew, because without curfew there will be too much socialization in the night and that’s where the disaster will be? But with curfew people stay in their home they may drink from home.”
Restricts on places of worship, schools, burials, weddings among others will remain until sufficient vaccination is done . The president asked ministry of education and ministry of health to meet a discuss possibility  of safe reopening of medical schools.

Salons and several other business arcades have been allowed to reopen under strict observance of SOPs. 
However, the President announced that arcades must have clear path ways, adequate lighting and ventilation, dedicated entry and exist, install CCTV cameras and where they are absent, proper hygiene and sanitization.
The President however, ordered that all shop owners and attendants must be registered and only arcades that fulfil the conditions and follow standards will be allowed re-open.

“Kikuubo should remain a wholesale trading center. The minsters of Kampala for Kampala, RCC, KCCA and enforcement agencies to ensure compliance. Manufacturers, wholesalers and traders should open outlets in the various towns and business centers in the outskirts of the central business district,” Mr Museveni said. 
Government has banned road side vending and all kiosks within corridors of buildings will be removed to decongest pathways.
To partially reopen government based on the current level of covid-19 transmission as shown by drop in cases, adherence to SOPs by population, current coverage of vaccination among others in additional to the projections by NPA. 

According to NPA, full reopening with no lockdown within 28 days would bring new cases to an average about 50o cases per day with weekly average projection of about 2000 and thus this measure would take the country directly into third wave.
NPA projected that, no opening up with full lockdown put cases at 30 new daily infections and weekly average of 246 in 28 days. Whereas this would cut down cases and this bring strong health benefits it has economic and social consequences. 

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Partial reopening which the government  opted for , projects increased number of cases in the first week of reopening  to average of 309 new cases per day and eventually come down to 85 cases  by third week eventually cases drop to 66 per day by 28 day and thus need to observe SOPs.
Whereas government rolled out cash relief to more than 500,000 people, some beneficiaries [34,000] missed out on account of registration glitches and other inconsistences.

Also revised is the number of staff allowed at workplaces from 10 per cent to 20 per cent. The country main port of entry, Entebbe international airport remains open as before  under observance of SOPs.
Entities like schools, places of worship  remain closed.
Uganda was thrown into a second lockdown on June 18 when the second wave of the pandemic hit the country that came with increase in the number of infections, deaths and hospital admissions. 

To break the chain of transmission and buy time to get in more vaccines and expand capacity of hospitals, government imposed a countrywide lockdown in addition to already existing inter-district travel ban.
However the numbers have reduced from 1735 daily confirmed cases to an average of 71.
Uganda has registered a cumulative of 93,927 Covid cases with 83,115 recoveries and 2,690 deaths.
To effectively reopen both government and scientists have advised to vaccinate the targeted 21.9million people. To fully reopen Uganda needs to have vaccinated 22 million people as means of optimal control of the pandemic and fully reopening up the economy. 

False prophets

Museveni blamed what he called "false prophets" for criticising government measures and claimed that "not listening" has "caused all these problems".
Throughout the 42-day lockdown, enforcement of many rules has been patchy with Kampala's characteristically traffic-clogged roads still mostly busy and restaurants continuing to serve sit-in customers.

Museveni said there had been a drop in the positivity rate to an average of eight percent now from a high of 22 percent, although testing remains extremely low.
Vaccination rollout, as in many African nations, has also been slow in part due to vaccine apathy and limited supplies, with only about 1.1 million doses administered so far -- about five percent of the government's target.
Uganda is due to receive more vaccine supplies from abroad soon, but Museveni said that "due to the hoarding of vaccines by the international countries, Uganda is embarking on its own vaccine manufacturing capacity".

The landlocked country of 45 million people last year took drastic measures to restrict movements when it had only a handful of coronavirus cases -- imposing one of the earliest lockdowns and closures on the continent.
It gradually eased those restrictions when cases dropped but in mid-June Museveni announced additional curbs as infections mounted again.

Last week, government officials said at least 800 people had been given fake coronavirus vaccines -- some injected with water by "unscrupulous" doctors and health workers.
There was also outrage this week after revelations that the government had splashed out 25 million euros to MPs to buy new cars, despite the impact the pandemic was having on the country's poor.

Following a much criticised attempt to distribute basic food relief to poor urban citizens during the initial lockdown last year, the government in July launched a project to send cash payments directly to vulnerable Ugandans' mobile phone accounts. 
About 500,000 people were due to receive 100,000 shillings ($28, 23 euros) but the project has been beset by problems.

Summary of new guidelines

  • Curfew time maintained at 7pm-5am
  • Boda-Bodas allowed to operate up to 6pm, with only one passenger.
  • Opening disciplines must strictly observe SOPs
  • Kikuubo to open but all kiosks must be removed. Road side vending around Kikuubo barred.
  • Malls, arcades and business centres re-open conditionally
  • Burials and weddings regulated to 20 people
  • Worship and prayer hubs to stay closed until after a 60-day review
  • Outdoor sporting events allowed under strict SOPs
  • Games, betting, casinos, cinema halls, concerts still prohibited 
  • Restaurants, saloons stay open
  • Saunas and steam bath venues stay closed
  • Schools remain closed until after sufficient vaccination is done
  • Ministry of health should consider reopening health training institutions
  • Cap on office workspace workers' prence edged up from 10 to 20
  • Private vehicles can move with a maximum of 3 people  
  • Airport to stay open 
  • Cargo truck drivers allowed to move with only 2 people on board 
  • Public Transport will open with 50% passenger capacity
  • Food markets to remain open
  • Conferences and seminars still banned
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