KAMPALA (Reuters) – Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on Friday partially eased a tight lockdown imposed 42 days ago to help stem a raging second wave of COVID-19, including re-opening some markets and shopping centres in towns.
In late May, the east African country started experiencing a sharp spike in COVID-19 infections and deaths, after authorities announced the presence of the Delta variant.
In response the government imposed one of Africa’s tightest lockdowns including a total ban on both private and public vehicles, shuttering all businesses but the most essential and closure of schools.
In a televised address Museveni said movement of both private and public vehicles was now allowed, but with fewer passengers.
He said he decided to loosen the restrictions because hospital admissions and fatality rates had gone down in recent weeks.
“During the period of the lockdown data generated by the ministry of health has shown a consistent reduction in daily confirmed cases,” Museveni said.
He also said they had weighed “economic considerations for the country” from a prolonged lockdown and decided the economic benefits of partially opening up outweighed the risks in terms of a potential rise in cases.
Uganda’s opposition parties have criticised the government for failing to procure vaccines while relying on lockdowns.
So far only about 1.1 million Ugandans have received a COVID-19 vaccine dose, all from donated shipments. Officials have said the delay in procuring vaccines is because poor countries such as Uganda have been priced out of the market by rich buyers in the West.
Critics have pointed to recent government spending on new vehicles for lawmakers as evidence authorities were not prioritising funding the response to COVID-19.
As of July 28 Uganda had recorded a total of 93,675 novel coronavirus cases and 2,661 deaths.
(Reporting by Elias Biryabarema; Editing by George Obulutsa and Daniel Wallis)