Arcades and shopping malls in the Kampala Central Business have abandoned the Standard Operating Procedures- SOPs put in place by the government to stop the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. In July, while reopening arcades and shopping malls following three months of closure, president, Yoweri Museveni directed the Health Ministry and Kampala Capital City Authority-KCCA to put in place guidelines to stop the spread of the virus.
They included among others that each arcade and shopping mall sets up a dedicated isolation room for COVID-19 suspects, hand washing facilities, cleaners dressed in personal protective gear and adequate detergents for hand washing. The Owners and operators were also advised to install CCTV cameras at each entry, exit and level and provide a temperature gun for measuring the body temperature of people entering their premises. They were also asked to ensure social distancing and stop people from standing in corridors, verandahs, steps to avoid congestion and keep records of everybody accessing their buildings.
The business community adhered to the guidelines in the first month. However, many seem to have relaxed on the implementation of the measures. Uganda Radio Network-URN visited some of the arcades such as Mukwano Arcade, Grand Corner Plaza, Arua Park Annex, Sekaziga House, Arua Park Plaza, Magoba Shopping Mall, Mega Plaza and Modern complex.
Others include KK TRUST, Ham Shopping Grounds, Teddy’s Plaza, Nabugabo Arcade, Kampala Plaza, Trust Arcade, E-M Plaza, and Galilaaya Shopping Centre and Court tower among others. Our reporter observed that some of the arcades have handwashing facilities but no one is enforcing hand washing. Several people easily accessed the buildings without washing their hands. At Court Tower opposite the city square where there is urban supermarket, there are water taps set for washing hands. However, a number of people walked through without washing or sanitizing their hands.
Our reporter managed to access the supermarket and other shops in the building using the entrances with guards standing with temperature guns without checking him. Robert Semwanga, one of the attendants at the court tower, said that he measures people and get tired.
In other arcades, even people in the business said they have never heard about isolation room in their buildings. Semwanga says that he was told by his bosses that if a person has 37 degrees and above temperature s, he or she should be taken to isolation room.
However, no one has ever measured that temperature.
At Hanifa towers, Jimmy Kakooza said that the challenge they are facing is that people come at the same time and he can’t put them on waiting because hand washing takes time. He also noted that it is also hard to enforce SOPs since the number of people accessing the building is overwhelming.
Lawrence Bukenya, a trader in Kikuubo dealing in plastics says people were serious when the country had few COVID-19 cases but they have relaxed when the number of patients and deaths has increased.
At both entrances to the busiest area of Kikuubo, in July this year, there were big hand washing facilities and two men used to force people to wash hands. However, there is none at both entrances now.
In all the arcades URN reporter visited, there was no one registering customers. Some people conduct their business in the corridors and the verandas. URN also learnt that due to big number of people moving up and down, it has become very difficult to ensure social distancing.
There are over 14,993 COVID-19 cases, 7,939 recoveries and over 139 deaths in Uganda.