Uganda's National Organisation of Trade Unions (Notu) and Kampala City Traders Association (Kacita) have said keeping some places under lockdown is irrelevant and that Ugandans can live with Covid-19.
The two bodies, who warn that the government stands to lose more in the long-run, reckon the State should only put in place Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and do the enforcement.
Mr Usher Wilson Owere, the Notu chairman general, said scientists have already done enough to establish where Covid-19 came from and how it can be prevented.
Mr Owere said “Let the government and scientists start planning on how we can live with coronavirus. Schools, airports, churches, mosques and all other workplaces must be opened”.
“I strongly ask the government to open up everything, including schools, all work places, places of worship, including the country’s only international airport, but continue with SOPs in all areas,” he said.
Mr Owere, in a social media post, also said Ugandans have obeyed all the measures put in place [by government], respected all the President’s orders, but that the situation is getting worse day by day as the lockdown restrictions continue.
“Continuing with the lockdown is becoming even more dangerous than coronavirus. Many [people] have lost jobs, domestic violence is increasingly going out of hand, and the government is losing popularity,” he added.
He also noted that police brutality could complicate government efforts to engage the public in fighting the pandemic.
“Time will come when no one will listen to the government at all, [and] that can be very dangerous,” he added.
Mr Everest Kayondo, the traders' union chairperson, also maintains that Ugandans can live with the virus.
He says the association is planning to pen a strong letter to the government, questioning the relevance of the continued lockdown.
The Kacita boss said it is perplexing that up to now, the government has kept arcades locked even when there is no notable difference between them and the malls.
“These [issues of arcades and malls] are just names in detail. If you go to the US, they are called ‘malls’ and if you go to the United Kingdom, they are called ‘arcades’. There is no difference. Let them just provide SOPs so that people can work,” he said.
“Even when it comes to schools, they should just be given SOPs and allow them to handle the rest. I don’t see why these things are not ending. I don’t understand why the government is insisting on closing anything at all. All these places should be opened and given SOPs,” he added.
In the same vein, Dr Joyce Moriku Kaducu, the State Minister for Primary Healthcare, has urged Ugandans should exhibit more patience.
The minister said the State is evaluating the situation and that arcades will be reopened soon, followed by churches. However, the minister did not specify the date.
“It is not that Ugandans can’t cope up with Covid-19 but there is a purpose to have an infection-free community,” she said.
“Some people may not see the relevance of moving in a systematic, coordinated phased manner [in easing the lockdown]. It has a lot to do with control of the infection,” she said.
Dr Kaducu said the essence of a phased lifting of the lockdown is to interrupt community transmission.
“From the time we started easing the lockdown, we look at the behaviour of the people, how they have embraced measures and the prevalence of the infection, before advancing to the next step,” she said.