Policy & GovernancePoliticsShould Uganda Consider a Lockdown Extension?

Aidah NabunjoFebruary 1, 202367613 min
Source: Anadolu Agency

On the 11th June 2021, the President of Uganda appeared on a Televised Address to the Ugandan public to announce a forty two day lockdown to curb the adverse effects of the spiraling COVID 19 second wave. With a country in exigency, it was crucial that he paved way before the whole population could be drown in this Second wave of the Pandemic.

Infection rates had spurred to 1000 cases daily as the population continuously refused to comply to the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). In big cities of Kampala and Wakiso, practices of social distancing and hand washing were dumped and livelihoods turned back to normal following the end of the first wave.

In his nation address, President Kaguta Museveni announced a ban on inter-district movements and public transport, Entertainment providers such as bars and night clubs, religious gatherings, closure of schools followed by restrictions on non essential services. Curfew hours were adjusted from  at  5:30a.m -9:30pm, to 5:30a.m to 7:00p.m. – VOA News.

With only five days left to complete the forty two days of the lockdown, The Ministry of Health is already applauding the lockdown for reducing the number of infections to 305 cases daily in the last three weeks. –Reuters . However, the NilePost indicates that scientists believe that the wave is likely to hike in August 2021 before cases steadily reduce.

Battered Economy:

Following a country wide lockdown, the tourism sector contributing over $1.6 Billion annual revenue was no exemption from its devastating effects even though foreign tourists were allowed to visit the country. Europe and the United Kingdom which constitute the country’s largest market for her tourism, red listed the country as unsafe to travel to.

Consequently The Hotel Owners Association, revealed that 90 percent of hotel reservations were cancelled when the lockdown ensured. As a result lodgings reduced to less than 15 percent, generating significant losses for the establishments and to government to which it generates a 10 percent GDP as shown by Daily Monitor.

Just like Tourism, the informal Sector was trying to mend its broken pieces when a second lockdown emerged. Market Vendors, Wholesale and Retail stores especially in downtown Kampala continue to choke on bank loans and Rent debts without successful government attempts to fix the situation.

For a sector employing 84.9 percent of the population mostly the youth, extension of the lockdown is projected to make 100,000 traders lose their jobs while the Macro and micro business will suffer most as predicted by Economic Expert Ramadan Ggoobi. –Daily Monitor.

Health Systems response:

At the beginning of the second wave, the country instantly fell into crisis. Public health facilities were overwhelmed by surging cases, limited ICU beds and Oxygen to support patients, infections and deaths of Health workers totaling to 100 because of lacking Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

When seconding the lockdown, Health Minister Hon. Ruth Aceng said the lockdown was a measure meant  to reduce high infection rates in communities and at Health Facilities while strengthening their ability to manage COVID 19 patients through mass vaccination. However On 16th July, The Head of the Ministerial Advisory Committee, Dr. Misaki Wanyegera informed that mass vaccination hasn’t been achieved yet in the country because of the global scarcity of Vaccines but not the lack of funds. –Daily Monitor.

Also, the Director of Curative Services at the Ministry of Health stated that the lockdown isn’t a long time measure to protect the country’s population. Rather he said citizens are mandated to observe the Standard Operating Procedures as they await vaccination. – Daily Monitor.

Child Protection:

Photo from the Education News Hub

When imposing a lockdown on schools, the President referred to them as hotspots for the spread of the virus. As a result 15 million students were sent home while Pre-primary Education remained indefinitely suspended. Outside school, children are exposed to abuses that are mental, physical and sexual according to The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF).

During the March 2020 to June in 2021 period, there has been a 22.5 percent increase in pregnancy among girls from the age 10-24 with 600 cases relating to physical and sexual abuse in the month of June alone as stated by Relief Web.

According to a UNICEF Press Release on 2nd July, evidence showed that children in the lockdown are used to provide labor, suffer mental health and physical abuse in addition to forcing teenage girls into early marriages.

What should be done?

When appearing on the Morning Breeze Television show on NBS, Former President of the Uganda Medical Association said the lockdown is not a sustainable measure saying the Ministry should prioritize investing in the Health System to manage COVID 19 waves.

“… Lockdown can go on but it is unsustainable, livelihoods are lost. People have lost jobs and are unable to feed and government is unable to feed them.”

“The government has to prioritize investing in the Human capital, through training critical care nurses, medical officers and anaesthetic officers for a 6 month course to reduce shortage of health workers while providing suitable salaries.” He explained

Furthermore, he stated that government should expand testing to the whole country, identify hotspots and monitor the evolution of the virus through mass research and surveillance.

Currently the number of administered vaccine doses total to 111,0867 about 1.3 percent of the population, 92,490 active cases, 2,557 deaths and 75,790 recoveries as per 24th July as indicated by World Meters.

Do you think the Ugandan government should lift the lockdown?

Aidah Nabunjo

My name is Aidah Nabunjo, a Ugandan Journalist and writer. Passionate about bringing African stories to life. Areas of interest are Agriculture, Energy , Policy and Governance. Email: aidahnabunjo@gmail.com


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