UGANDA: A SNEAKPEAK INTO GULU TOWN MINUTES BEFORE CURFEW HOURS BEGIN, A MEASURE ANNOUNCED TO PREVENT THE SPREAD OF CORONA-VIRUS

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Cynibel Supermarket on Gulu Avenue is virtually empty although it was allowed to operate during daytime

It is exactly half past six O’clock in the evening (15.00 hours GMT), Gulu town that used to be a bee hive of activities by this time is different today, just two days after the enforcement of curfew hours commenced.  The streets are quiet and empty as all shops, bars and other business centres are already closed.

The few people who are left on the streets are either walking at a faster pace, or running in different directions as they struggle to reach home before Seven O’clock when the curfew begins. The curfew ends at six O’clock of the following morning.

The curfew and the total lockdown of the country are some of the latest directives that President Museveni issued on Monday 30th as additional precautionary measures to avoid the spread of Corona-virus that has so far infected 45 people in the country. Out of the 45 infected, 43 are Ugandans while 2 are Chinese Nationals.

On that day, the President also banned all private vehicles from the streets except for members of the Diplomatic community which must carry only one person besides the driver for purposes of visiting medical facilities and supermarkets. All offices and shops selling non-foodstuffs are to remain closed for fourteen days with effect from March 30, 2020.

“We think that there is less risk in taking the risk of the bitter medicine of maximum restrictions for a limited time than gambling by assuming that pollution was limited when we are not absolutely sure.” Mr. Museveni justifies his order for hours of curfew and total lockdown of the country. He was addressing the nation on Monday 30th March, 2020.

Mr. Museveni revealed that the idea of the curfew and lockdown was given to him by a Sheikh through a bible scripture taken from the book of Isaiah 26:20. Which says “Go home my people and lock your doors. Hide yourselves for a little while until the Lord’s anger has passed.”

Five minutes after Seven O’clock in the evening (16.05 hours GMT) is when the security agents comprising of Uganda Peoples’ Defence Forces –UPDF and Uganda Police Force –UPF begin to appear on the streets with lashes for whipping those who shall be found making their ways home past the given time.

As for me, Seven O’clock found me along one of the streets in town 500 metres away from my home. Having a clearance from the Resident District Commissioner as a journalist made me escape the beating from the UPDF soldiers who are part of the foot patrol deployed to enforce the President’s directives.

As I was about to meet a group soldiers walking along Andrea Olal road, one of them whipped a young man who was running  pass them as he raced towards the direction of his home. The young man who continued running even faster seemed satisfied with the beating as he had expected the worst. “Ingia pole”, one of the soldiers told me in Kiswahili language, meaning ‘enter well’, after he saw my press tag that was dangling around my neck.

Other people behind me who were rushing home scattered in different directions on seeing the security personnel, in a bid to avoid being beaten. These fear stricken people who stay in the outskirt of town include young boys and girls, women and men and some few disabled and cuckoos. Reports coming from some of them is that, these security personnel do not only beat those caught walking beyond Seven O’clock, but also extort money and loot some valuables.  

By now, I could feel the silence in the city as everyone is indoor unlike back then when life would begin for some people like workers going for their night shifts, street hawkers selling their merchandizes at the roadsides, idlers loitering in the streets, commercial sex workers skimming clients, Boda –Boda Cyclists minting cash for their services, to mention but a few.

It should be noted that the difference between day time and night time here is slightly the similarity. Bars, Night Clubs, Betting Centres, Boutiques, Video Libraries, Hotels and lodges, Saloons and Barbershops, and other non –food stores remain closed both day and night while only few business like pharmacies, food stores, markets, Agro –Vet shops, Banks, Health Care Centres, remain open only to be closed before Seven O’ clock daily.

Mr. Ezekiel Emitu, the Aswa River Region Police Commanders revealed that the enforcement of the curfew in the region commenced on Monday 30th March 2020 at Ten O’clock after the President’s address to the nation.

“Those immune to the curfew are security officers on duty, medical personnel on duty and the members of the Corona-virus taskforce who play critical roles. But they should be given tags and stickers for easy identification.” Mr. Emitu during Gulu District Corona-virus Taskforce meeting on Tuesday 31st 2020 at Gulu Municipal Yard

Meanwhile, Emmanuel Mafundo, the Gulu District Police Commander appealed to the taskforce to arrange for a street drive to inform people about the curfew hours. “This will leave no room for excuses for those found to be on the wrong side of the law.” Says Mafundo

Though many Ugandans who live from hand to mouth are crying that the lockdown will throw them into sever hunger, many have applauded the President’s order for curfew and lock down.

I perused through my Facebook feeds and saw lots of posts praising the curfew and the lockdown. Here are some few posts.

 “Quarantine has made me so humble and quiet.” Anena Charity.

“Dear men. Yes, you who used to let women and the kids eat beans while you eat pork and beer. How does it taste now?” Kimong Eveline Kim.

“What I like about Corona-virus is that, everyone is treated here, no flying of a certain class of people abroad.” Kitara Anek P’Goli

“Not easy but let us not loose hope in our ever loving God. Stay safe, stay home.” Hocitti Robert Hacellam.

Recent report by the Ministry of Health indicates that a total of 2,661 high risks travellers have been identified, 1,334 cumulative numbers of individuals had been tested, 869 are under institutional quarantine, 141 individuals are under self-isolation. Out of the 45 cases of Corona-virus confirmed, no death has yet been recorded.

All said; Uganda seems to be pursuing the right line as out of 302 samples taken from suspected cases to the Uganda Virus Research Institute Entebbe on Wednesday, March 01, 2020, only one case turned positive. She was a twenty-two year-old housewife who contracted the virus from her husband who had returned from Dubai, United Arab Emirates on March 20, 2020 and had tested positive who is undergoing treatment.    

 

 

 

 

 

 

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