With only 10 days to the end of the 42-day lockdown, Ugandans are anxiously awaiting the government’s decision on whether or not to reopen the economy.
Uganda went into a second lockdown on June 18 amid the rising number of infections and deaths.
While the number of cases has gone down over the last two weeks, there is still fear of an upsurge should the economy be reopened given that majority of the population is not yet vaccinated.
But the economists fear that the prolonged lockdown will severely hurt the economy and erode the gains it had made following the first lockdown last year.
“Measures to open the economy after the 42 days should be put in place so that the population returns to work otherwise where we will get money to treat the Covid-19 patients because that needs resources?” Mr Patrick Ocailap, the Deputy Secretary to the Treasury, is quoted as saying in a recent interview.
But many health and economic experts agree that vaccination is the only way out of this difficult situation.
At least 1 million people of the targeted 21.9 million have received the Covid-19 jab leaving out 20.8 million people, according to data by Ministry of Health. As of July 6, a total of 158,733 people had received both the first and second dose while 868,303 had received the first dose.
Mr Amos Lugoloobi, the State Minister for Finance, while reading the 2021/2022 Budget on June 10, said: “The initial target is to vaccinate at least 6 million most vulnerable persons comprised of teachers, health workers, the elderly and persons with chronic ailments. Shs560b has been provided for the procurement of vaccines. Uganda’s attempt to inoculate 21.9 million of its citizens against the pandemic, which has now killed more than 2,000 people countrywide, has staggered given the global shortage of Covid-19 vaccines.
Although government had placed an order of 18 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine, this hit a snag after India suspended exportation of vaccines following a surge in Covid-19 cases in their country. According to Ministry of Health, a total of 585,600 doses of vaccines are expected this month. Of these 285,600 doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca are expected under dose-sharing arrangement through Covax facility and a donation of 300,000 doses of Sinovac by the Chinese government. Government is also excepting 688,800 doses of AstraZeneca next month from Covax facility.
Government has also concluded a deal to procure two million Covid-19 vaccines from American pharmaceutical company, Johnson & Johnson, through the African Union and legal requirement of procurement of 9 million doses through Covax.
The Director of Trade Information at Uganda Export Promotion Board (UEPB), Mr Lawrence Micheal Oketcho, says vaccination will be a defining factor in whether or not to fully reopen the economy.
“There is no way we can control the pandemic without a vaccine. And if we don’t have the disease under control then eventually it will affect production and productivity and this will have an impact on our exports,” he says.
Dr Charles Olaro, the director for curative services at the Health ministry, says the only option for the people is to observe SOPs because the country cannot stay locked down for so long.