Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni is scheduled to address the country today evening about ways of combating the COVID-19 pandemic as the number of positive cases keep increasing.
While around this time last year many Ugandans were against a lockdown as a means of stemming the spread of the virus, some are now calling for one.
Experts, however say that lockdown restrictions, if re-imposed, are likely to hurt the economy that is on a recovery journey after facing the negative impacts of the pandemic.
Dr Suzan Kavuma of Makerere University School of Economics says a lockdown for Uganda right now would be catastrophically both economically and health-wise.
She says: “A lockdown right now would be Catastrophic both economically and health-wise. Economically, a total lockdown would mean people are locked at home and hence demand for goods and services will drastically go down affecting production.
“On the health side, a lockdown would mean movement is restricted yet at this time when the rate of infections is high, people need to access medical services as fast as possible which would not be possible. A lockdown at this time would not be a wise decision.”
Ms Deborah Apio, a teacher in one of the Kindergartens in Kampala, says another lockdown will send them back to the village as they will be having no means to feed and pay for rent in Kampala. It should be noted that movement between districts is not allowed so Apio and the rest facing similar circumstances will likely starve or have to resort to begging
“We are already suffering. Had it not been for some parents who have been calling us to coach their children, I don’t know where I would be; I have a son to take care of,” Apio says.
Milton Bwambale, a boda boda cyclist who plies his trade in and around Naalya, a Kampala surburb doesn’t differ from Apio. He says another lockdown will send him back to Kasese to sit at home.
“I was lucky to go home during lockdown and return to work after it was eased. I had saved some money which is not the case with some who earn jut enough to feed their families for a day.
“Some of my colleagues went home to the villages during the lockdown last year, they have never returned because they sold their motorbikes. Not everyone can adopt to village life; some cannot dig and grow crops for sell. They end up selling the small pieces of land they have to be able to afford food,” he says.
Boosting the economy to recovery
Bank of Uganda has reduced the Central Bank Rate to 6.5 percent, a move is boost the economy, which has remained stagnant as the effects of Covid-19 continue to be felt.
Indeed, the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBoS) in its June 2021 real GDP estimates indicate economic growth of 3.3 percent in Financial Year (FY) 2020/21, slightly higher than initial projections of 3.1 percent, owing primarily to stronger household consumption.
However, contraction in private sector investment is persisting, partly reflecting heightened Covid-19 induced uncertainties. The real GDP growth outlook remains unchanged at 4.0-4.5 percent in FY2021/22
The Central Bank high degree of uncertainty surrounds the economic outlook for Uganda with many possible upside and downside risks.
Amos Lugoloobi, the newly appointed State minister for finance in charge of Planning, while presenting the budget, recently, said restoring the economy to medium growth path requires boosting business of the Private Sector, especially Micro, Small and Medium (MSME) Enterprises by extending Covid relief measures, increasing regional and continental market access, access to long term affordable capital and supporting entrepreneurial development. He added that it also requires the government to aggressively promote agro-Industrialization to unlock the potential of primary production, together with standards development and enforcement including enhanced Market Access.
In this regard, Mr Lugoloobi said Uganda Development Bank will be further capitalized with an additional Shs. 103 billion in financial year 2021/22, in addition to the Shs. 555 billion disbursed this Financial Year 200/21 for lending to Small and Medium Enterprises affected by the COVID19 pandemic, among others.
Second Wave numbers
Uganda is currently grappling with the impacts of the second wave of the pandemic. Confirmed new cases recorded in the past 24 hours are 1,564 with 42 new deaths. Uganda has so far recorded 68,779 cumulative cases and 49,026.
The total number of Ugandans vaccinated against Covid-19 stands at 821,659.
The country’s health facilities are now with severe COVID-19 cases. It is reported that Mulago National referral Hospital had an oxygen failure early in the week leading to a number of fatalities but the hospital has come out to deny the reports.
However, a new oxygen plant is being installed today at the hospital.