Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | On Tuesday, President Yoweri Museveni announced plans to allow salons to resume normal operations about four months after they were closed as part of the Covid19 control measures. Despite the official closure, some salonists in Kampala have been going about their normal business.
I set out to check some of the salons in town early this week. Walking down Luwum Street along Majestic Plaza, a lady dressed in a knee level long green dress approaches me and asks if I was interested in her saloon services. I respond to her call. She asks me to follow her as she leads me to her saloon. Off we go along Luwum Street till we enter Gazaland, a commercial building.
Most of the shops were under lock and key. As we walked, I thought that she was taking me to a nearby place but to my dismay, we walked a long distance and went through various bends and stairs again till we got to Wangweri Hair Saloon. At the salon, I was astonished to see a two by two room occupied by 12 people. Our pair increased the number to 14.
I was allocated a seat by my salonist. One could hardly get a feel of fresh air because of congestion despite the doors being wide open. The people in the salon had to adjust their seats to create space for us too. I was allocated a seat in the corner. “Customer please take your seat,” my salonist said.
Once seated, I asked how much working on my hair would cost. “Just 15,000 Shillings for both unplaiting and washing your hair,” was her reply. She explained that since the lockdown started, they had stayed at home and had only resumed their operations to earn some money for survival.
As I listen in, she gets a pair of scissors and starts cutting my weave so as to start unplaiting the hair. As she’s working on me, her neighbor gets a new client after completing the one she was working on hours before I got in. We were asked to move a little further to the wall where we squeezed ourselves.
I ask, don’t the police disturb you? “No way, we are operating very far from their sight, I don’t think they can locate us and in any case the police are people like us so why should I be scared of them?”, she replies to me with a smile all over her face. In the salon ladies discuss their expectations in the president’s 19th address on the Covid19 lockdown.
However, not so many are optimistic that they will be permitted since some of them don’t believe that
COVID-19 really exists as all the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) like wearing facemasks, washing hands and social distancing are violated. Twenty minutes later, my salonist asks me to stand up and go to the sink where a queue had formed as women wait for their hair to be washed.
Looking at how dirty and old the sink looked, I immediately withdrew from the queue and told the salonist that I had received a message and needed to run an urgent errand in town. I then paid her Shillings 10,000 for unplaiting my hair and waved her goodbye.
Off I went to find my way back to the street. I could hardly remember where I passed but followed people till I got somewhere I knew and found my way out of the building. Zaina Mugaidi, one of the clients in the salon says that whereas she likes keeping her head neat and clean by plaiting her hair, she’s scared of corona virus infection because of there is no social distancing in the salons.
She also observed that none of the salonist was wearing a face mask as required.
Abdul Kareem Mucunguzi, the Chairperson of the Association of Salons and Spars in Uganda (ASSU), says they were forced to resume work illegally to earn a living. He admitted that many of the salonists had failed to observe the Covid19 preventive measures and SOPs.
He however, said they would ensure they enforce the directives once government gives them greenlight to resume their operations.
While allowing the salonists to resume work on Tuesday night, President Yoweri Museveni directed them to wear face masks and face shields. He also directed all salons to secure temperature guns, practice social distancing, enforce hand washing and allow air conditioning.
He said those in towns should have partitions where customers can wait from.