Spies to vet city traders

Businessman Godfrey Kirumira speaks during the meeting with the Minister of State for Trade on Monday at the Office of the Prime Minister in Kampala. PHOTO / RACHEL MABALA

Government yesterday said shopping arcades and malls in Kampala can start operating today so long as they fulfil the recommended standard operating procedures (SOPs).
The new declaration was made by Ms Minsa Kabanda, the Minister for Kampala Affairs, and signalled an about-face by authorities that had set August 7 as the earliest date to reopen the business premises.
However, in a departure from practice, the vetting of traders and buildings eligible to operate will be conducted, by among others, operatives from Internal Security Organisation (ISO) and the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI).
President Museveni shut arcades and malls when he imposed a nationwide 42-day lockdown on June 18.
That lockdown, the second induced by surging Covid-19 cases, ended last Thursday upon which the President partially reopened the country under strict rules.
In the Friday address, he allowed malls and arcades to operate, alongside many other prevented activities, subject to guidelines by the ministries of Health and that of Kampala Capital City Authority and Metropolitan Affairs.
In terse discussions during a meeting at the Office of the Prime Minister in Kampala, which journalists were allowed to attend, Minister Kabanda yesterday said: “Some landlords are giving different dates to observe the SOPs.”
A number of landlords sought immediate reopening of the business premises while others asked for at least three-day lead time to enable them fulfil the government-set compliance requirements.   
“So, my team is ready to open the arcades in a phased manner. The President gave the directives on the arcade openings. So, whoever fulfils his (Museveni’s) guidelines should call my team for inspection, starting (today),” Ms Kabanda said.
The principal areas of compliance that the inspectors will monitor include structural status of the buildings, screening areas, social distancing arrangements, management-related issues, waste management and water, sanitation and hygiene.
However, State Minister for Kampala Affairs Minister Kyofatogabye Kabuye had rejected the proposal to fully reopen compliant shopping malls and arcades, arguing that permitting tenants to access the buildings could accelerate Covid infections in the capital.   
Following consensus in yesterday’s meeting, Kampala Resident City Commissioner (RCC) Hudu Hussein, who doubles as the security head in the capital, named spies among State operatives to vet the traders and monitor compliance.
“Police, ISO, CMI, Health Monitoring Uganda, Kampala Capital City Authority, officials from the Ministry of Trade, and officials from the Ministry of Health are the ones leading the compliance team,” he said.
The RCC did not explain why secret State operatives were being drafted in the vetting of businesses.
The traders in the meeting stressed the need for urgent reopening of the malls and arcades, citing their loan obligations to banks while the landlords argued that some of the guidelines --- such as installation of CCTV cameras --- were unnecessary and unrelated to Covid spread.
Mr Kalungi Kirumira and Mr Hamis Kiggundu, both loaded businessmen in Kampala, were very vocal in opposing the requirement for CCTV installation as a means to stem the spread of the pandemic which has so far infected more than 90,000 and killed over 2000 since its outbreak in the country in March 2020.
The State Minister for Trade, Ms Harriet Ntabazi, in reference to pleas by the traders over loan burdens, said the government is in early stages of engagement with commercial banks to enable the borrowers to negotiate repayment.
Structural status

•Premises and access ways should be clean, hygienic and not blocked.
•The corridors and access ways should be free of any obstruction, stockpiles and temporary structures.
•There should be adequate natural lighting and ventilation.
Screening areas
•Arcade must have dedicated access and exit points.
•All entry and exit points to be manned by dedicated persons at all times.
•Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras installed at each entry and exit level.
•Body temperature screening of attendants and clients using functional thermometers.
•Shoppers, customers and attendants use recommended facemasks.
•Notices on use of face masks, hand hygiene, social distancing and respiratory hygiene should be placed conspicuously.
•All entry points should be strictly manned.
•Each mall/arcade should have a dedicated isolation room.
Water, sanitation & hygiene
•Arcade or mall is connected to piped water supply.
•Provide functional hand hygiene station, including draining the waste water.
•Ensure hand-washing facility has water and soap alongside hand sanitiser.
•Ensure arcade has functional toilets with privacy and gender-seperated.
•Provide functional hand-washing points with water and soap near toilets
•Register all tenants
•Appoint compliance officers.
•Train compliance officers on guidelines.
•Generate a monitoring check-list for compliance officers.
•Provide adequate stock of soap, sanitiser, toilet paper and related consumables to last for at least 2 weeks.
•Each shop owner avail soap for disinfecting counters.
•Ensure arcade has dedicated cleaners through the operation time.
•Janitors provided with adequate personal protection equipment (PPEs).
Waste Management
•Provide adequate trash bins with tight lids for storage of solid and hazardous wastes.
•Enforce proper discharge of liquid waste.
Social Distancing
•Implement social distancing marks on the flow, 2 metres apart.
•Mark off physical distancing with strings.