Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Traders operating from arcades across Kampala have pleaded for reopening of the buildings to allow them to resume operations after more than three months of inactivity.
The arcades remained closed even when the government eased lockdown restrictions opening malls and other shops. But according to President Yoweri Museveni, it would be practically impossible to enforce social distancing guidelines in arcades, whose shopping units are co-rented by several traders.
Today numerous traders and vendors staged downtown as a team of government officials inspected Mutaasa Kafeero Plaza and Park View Shopping Centre, some of which have remained closed. The government team comprised Trade Minister Amelia Kyambadde, Kampala Metropolitan Affairs Minister Betty Amongi, Dr Monica Musenero, the presidential advisor on epidemics and Kampala Capital City Authority-KCCA officials.
The visit was mainly intended at establishing if the situation in arcades permitted for reopening. But they were welcomed by large numbers of traders who were uncontrollably waiting on the streets pleading for re-opening. Dr Musenero demanded that at least a meter physical distancing be maintained before they could start the tour, but this was respected only for a short while.
Majority of the traders and vendors were blocked from joining the officials’ entourage leaving them crowing on the streets.
Kyambadde says that they were looking at the preparedness of the traders to re-open basing on the availability of washrooms, water, hand washing facilities and the ability of traders to maintain social distancing. Although the two arcades had washrooms and handwashing facilities at the entrance, the team could not conclude yet on whether they qualify for re-opening.
Betty Amongi says the technical team from the government will continue with inspections from Tuesday next week in all the arcades for a phased reopening. She adds that within a week, the government will have concluded touring all arcades and come up with guidelines for reopening.
Several traders who witnessed the tour pleaded with the government to reopen arcades such that they could resume work. Enid Bwewe from Arcade Plaza says they have no other means of survival.
Kampala City Traders Association-KACITA spokesperson Issa Sekitto committed that leaders of the business community will ensure that government guidelines are respected. Ssekitto says that several traders are struggling to survive since their only source of income is closed.