By Keefa Nuwahereza
Several religious leaders who include pastors, priests, reverends, sheikhs and other clergymen are crying foul after President Yoweri Museveni lifted the ban on boda-bodas and arcades, but left churches, mosques and other places of worship closed.
During his Tuesday night address about the government’s fight against the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19), President Museveni announced that boda-bodas would resume transporting passengers and that some arcades would reopen after putting in place measures to observe the Ministry of Health Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) aimed at fighting the spread of COVID-19, but he left churches closed.
Museveni revealed in his speech that total of 110 arcades will be opened after meeting SOPs and that these must have; temperature guns, social distancing, hand washing, not allow people in corridors (bikuubo), no traders on verandas, enough toilets keep records of buyers/clients, no air conditioning and that everyone must put on face masks.
The President also said that salons will reopen but on condition that they ensure masks for everybody, face shields for barbers/salon staff plus having temperature guns to check the temperatures of their cleints.
About Boda-bodas, Museveni said they will resume transporting passengers on July 27th, 2020 and that besides masks, the rider must also have a helmet, passengers must wear masks, while the boda-boda rider must keep records of clients and sanitize seats.
Museveni also extended the curfew hours noting that going forward curfew will start at 9:00Pm and end at 5:30Am, although Boda-bodas will stop at operations at 6:00Pm.
About churches and mosques, President Museveni said they will remain closed although government is working towards SOPs for their reopening.
Museveni also revealed that government will make a big decision about reopening schools and inform the public accordingly before September. He noted that government is assessing options of supporting private school teachers and that he had offered Shs2Bn for the teachers’ SACCO.
The President concluded by saying that Entebbe International Airport will remain closed until situation abroad normalises.
It should be noted that President Museveni announced a number of drastic measures in March this year which were implemented by government to prevent the spread of COVID-19, among which was the suspension of passenger flights at Entebbe Airport, closure of arcades, bars, salons, hotels, schools, universities, churches, mosques and other places of worship, on top of suspending public transport means.
Although Museveni later lifted the ban on public transport means like taxis, buses and cabs, he had maintained the suspension of boda-boda from carrying passengers and arcades from operating, until he lifted the suspension on Tuesday.
However, the development did not amuse many clergymen, who claim that churches should also be opened, such that they can resume operating, since government has managed to contain the spread of COVID-19 and that they are willing to put in place SOPs.
Actually, some pastors, under their umbrella body of the National Pastors’ Platform of Uganda recently launched a campaign dubbed ‘ I can’t breathe prayer and lamentation campaign’ in which they are protesting the continued closure of their places of worship.
In this campaign, which is headed by Pastor David Kiganda, the pastors also unanimously agreed to start wearing sackcloth saying it is a symbol of mourning and repentance according to the Bible.
It is now almost four months down the road ever since the churches and other places of worship were closed in the fight against the spread of COVID-19.