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Coronavirus fight: SME body urges government to maintain strict measures

Federation of SMEs Uganda delegate John Walugembe.

Kampala, Uganda | Julius Businge | The Federation of SMEs Uganda has urged the government to continue undertaking emergency measures to slow down the spread of the virus.

The measures in question include; limiting people’s movements, conducting mass testing and rigorous tracing.

In particular, through John Walugembe, the body said in a notice dated March 23 that the Ministry of Health should engage in mass testing in possible hotspots, in order to identify asymptomatic exposures to the virus.

It also said that the government should undertake a well-planned partial lockdown that ensures that essential needs are met.

Specifically, businesses that are critical in meeting the food and health needs to citizens need to be asked to remain open.

“With 80% of Uganda’s workforce in the informal sector, we are concerned that completely locking down the country, may disrupt the livelihoods of thousands of individuals who can only earn through working,” the body said. For these individuals, the body added, no work means no money and no safety net. As such, it would be difficult to enforce such lock down measures in a context where informal actors and SMEs have to choose between starvation at home and exposure to the coronavirus, at work.

It also urged the public to avoid engaging in panic buying, as this may lead to shortages, disadvantaging vulnerable groups that may need these goods, the most.

Similarly, the body is opposed to any idea of fixing prices of food or hygiene products, as this may simply incentivize the emergence of a black market, for these essentials.

Finally, it said that, although members are aware that effectively curbing the spread of this virus will depend on strict adherence to social distancing and self-isolation guidelines; many SMEs will find this nearly impossible since their income depends on their physical presence.

“To these informal actors, we would like them to adhere to the guidelines of government on this issue, since the health of Ugandans should take precedence, over any economic consideration.”

President Yoweri Museveni urged the public to remain calm in a televised national address in the afternoon of March 24 as his administration continues to monitor the situation.

Uganda had by Tuesday recorded 9 cases of COVID-19, all imported from United Arab Emirates, officials said.

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