Uganda: Mbale Central Market Closed Over Failure to Observe Covid19 Guidelines

A task force on Covid-19 has closed Mbale central market over non-adherence to the presidential and health guidelines to curb the spread of coronavirus pandemic.

The task force officials told Daily Monitor on Tuesday that they were forced to close the market after the vendors reportedly failed to implement procedural standards issued by President Museveni for the smooth running of food markets in the country.

The standards included maintaining a 4 metres social distance from one another and also sleeping at the market for the 14 days of the partial lockdown.

When Daily Monitor visited the market on Tuesday morning, police and army personnel had been deployed.

A few vendors who had reported to work were denied entry and ordered to return home until further notice.

Constructed by government under the Markets and Agricultural Trade Improvement Programme with support from African Development Bank, the facility hosts over 2900 vendors.

"Starting today (Tuesday) Mbale central market will be closed as we re-organize the vendors. We are going to have the meeting with the market authorities to see how we can re-organize the vendors," Mr Sulaiman Ogajo Barasa, the Mbale RDC said.

Mr Barasa, who heads the district task force, said they will close other markets in the district, which have failed to follow the guidelines.

The Chairperson Mbale Central Market, Mr Ayub Madoi, also blamed the vendors for taking presidential directives for granted.

"We need them to follow both the Ministry of Health guidelines and Presidential directives but they were ignoring them but the market will be open soon," Mr Madoi said.

He said the market will be open as long as the vendors are willing to ensure that a four-meter distance between the sellers and buyers is observed.

However, Mr Akim Wetanyeri, the member of Mbale Development Forum said the decision was rushed for selfish reasons, adding that hunger will kill more people than the virus its self.

"This is a food basket for other regions so closing it at this time is a time bomb. Let government buy the equipment to test people entering the market instead of closing it," Mr Watenyeri said.

Ms Agnes Nambozo, a vendor, wondered why the authorities decided to close the market instead of providing them with protective gears.

"We expected them to give us protective gears like face masks, sanitiser instead of closing the market," he said.

She added, "I think their intention is to kill us indirectly because this is where we get food," Ms Nambozo said.

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