Uganda: How Abuse of Sops Affected Fight Against Pandemic

By Benson Tumusiime

When President Museveni imposed a second lockdown on the country on June 18, he directed authorities to enforce the standard operating procedures (SOPs) among the population as a major way of mitigating the spread of Covid-19.

Like in the first lockdown, which he announced in March 2020, the President suspended major activities, especially where people congregated in large numbers.

The suspended activities include, among others, both public and private transport, education services, church services and bars.

He allowed markets, supermarkets, health facilities, hardware shops and shops selling food stuffs, and only 10 per cent of workers in organisations to operate but under strict observance of SOPs.

However, two weeks into the lockdown, people had started abusing the SOPs, raising fears about the possible super spread of the virus.

For instance, unlike in the city centre, trade activities have been ongoing normally in the surrounding suburbs, with some bars still operating.

With the continuous free interaction of people in the suburbs, the spread of Covid-19 was inevitable.

Officials from Kampala Capital City Authority (KCAA) health directorate, in a recent interview with this newspaper, expressed fear that the congestion in city suburbs was frustrating the fight against the virus.

They also said it was hard to trace the contacts of Covid-19 cases.

Although Kampala Resident City Commissioner (RCC) Hood Hussein had earlier said the city's Covid-19 response teams were in the suburbs sensitising the people about observance of SOPs, the situation on ground sharply contrasts his claim.

In markets, only a handful of vendors sleep there, while the majority return to their homes yet they interact with very many customers whose Covid-19 status is unknown.

This newspaper last week, quoting a report from KCCA, reported that out of every 10 Covid-19 cases in the country, five of them are from Kampala.

Unlike the first lockdown where boda boda riders rarely carried passengers, the situation has been different this time round. Boda boda riders have been carrying more than one passenger. Some of them work past the 5pm curfew.

Although the President directed that only essential workers should be allowed to drive to work, there has been an increase in the number of vehicles on the road.

Kampala Metropolitan Police deputy spokesperson Luke Owoyesigyire says they have been impounding motorcycles that carry passengers and vehicles that don't have travel permits.

During the first lockdown, the joint security forces used to carry out operations in all cities and urban centres but there has been laxity in these operations during this lockdown.

Most pedestrians now walk freely on roads without wearing facemasks.

The low observance of Covid-19 SOPs among the public points to the laxity in the level of enforcement.

A crisis meeting held on Monday at City Hall resolved, among others, to deploy security personnel in the city centre and on major roads to enforce SOPs among people once the lockdown is loosened.

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