KAMPALA — Leaders of Opposition on Monday evening added their voices to several calls by the desperate citizens seeking the government to lift the lockdown in the country that has been extended by another 14 days.
President Museveni announced on Monday, that in a bid to stem the spread of the novel Corona virus in Uganda, the country would continue to lockdown public and private transport and areas that attract mass gatherings including churches and schools.
Democratic Party president Norbert Mao took to his twitter timeline where he stated that while government was looking to stem the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19, there is also need to consider the livelihood of Ugandans.
“There can’t be livelihood without life and there can’t be life without livelihood, Let’s talk about livelihood of our people with or without corona virus,” Mao wrote on Monday evening, adding: “We can’t keep hiding from corona virus forever. Ease the lockdown.”
Government has since the lockdown began over a month ago, embarked on food distribution around the country.
However the exercise which targeted distributing food to the urban around Kampala and Wakiso has been marred with several irregularities that have seen senior officials at the Office of the Prime Minister jailed.
Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago has hit out at the exercise saying it is failing to work.
He noted that only about 200,000 people have received food, a claim that ICT state minister Peter Ogwang refutes, saying more than 600,000 people have got the relief.
Phillip Mwanje, a social critic says the idea of food relief is misconstrued because the government makes the assumption that Ugandans can survive off handouts.
“That is where the problem lies. Yes the targeted people are poor and live hand to mouth, but they would rather live that way and maintain their dignity than me reduced to waiting on government to give them a few kilos of posho and beans. They are used to toiling for what little they live off of,” Mwanje told PML Daily on phone.
Mr Museveni on Monday evening, in a televised address to the nation, the 13 address since the virus was first reported in Uganda, gave guidelines further extending the lockdown for another 14 days, but this time allowing a few more service providers to open shop, with t promise to continue studying and easing more restrictions on Ugandans.
Among the service providers added on the list of essential services that can operate in the extended lockdown include lawyers, hardware shops, wholesale shops, mechanics, metal fabricators, carpenters and insurance services.
The President, however, maintained restrictions on movement of Ugandans, keeping the ban on both public and private transport.
He also maintained that schools and other institutions of learning would remain closed in order to avoid large number of people gathering in one place.
However, several Ugandans took to social media crying out to the extension with others giving the indication that there were ulterior motives in the extension.
Retired sports journalist and a renowned critic of President Museveni, Joseph Kabuleta tweeted: “So employers can transport workers in buses (big numbers) but workers can’t drive private cars (one person). How does that make sense? Social distancing???? This whole thing has nothing to do with COVID-19.”
Hours before the President could address the nation, several media houses, quoting Cabinet sources, reported that the health experts had requested Cabinet and the President to extend the lockdown further to allow for the health team to study the impact of the virus on the communities in Uganda.
Last week the Ministry of Health launched a random impact assessment survey, in which members of the public would be tested at random to see how many have acquired the virus.
So far three people have been found to have the virus out of over 600 people tested in the community.
Before the address Tabu Butagira, a senior journalist wrote:
“Uganda’s lockdown debate is a class war. People who have means to survive under an extended lockdown see opening up as an imminent exposure to death. People who don’t have anything to survive on see lockdown extension as a highway to their graves. Either side is invested in self-preservation. The dichotomy, which underlies the polarity in thinking and approach, is that the former category are decision-makers while the latter are the majority citizens. Wanyama Don Innocent, Uganda’s is now much a class war as it is a health crisis.
“If Malaria kills about 16 people every day according to health officials, translating into more than 5,700 per year. Can’t we just learn to live with COVID-19 altogether?
“For Malaria you need to sleep under a treated mosquito net, for COVID-19 we can adjust to moving around with masks, detergent and sanitizer,” Ali Twaha, a business journalist wrote on Facebook.
Dr Ekwaro Obuku, the former chairman of the Uganda Medical Association tweeted: “Ndugu Don Wanyama, please whisper to Mzee [President] Museveni that lockdown extended may adversely impact non COVID-19 diseases. Severe malaria, pneumonia, anemia deathsalone may be 890 since lockdown,” Dr Obuku quotes the 2018/19 annual report by the Health ministry.
During his address, Mr Museveni said the government would before the 14 days pronounce itself on the way forward as outcomes of the survey progress.
It is expected that the President will continue announcing easing of more restrictions with time.