Covid-19: Security closes general merchandise shops in Masaka

Security agencies have engaged in running battles with traders in Masaka Municipality over a  decision to close all general merchandise shops despite President Museveni’s clearance.

Several traders had reopened their shops in response to a move by President Yoweri Museveni to ease COVID-19 restrictions with effect from Tuesday May 26.

However, the security teams, comprising the Police and army closed all retail and general merchandise shops, and ordered operators to return home. The security has only spared hardware wholesale stores, Pharmaceuticals, Supermarkets and other food stores.

Muhammad Nsubuga, the Greater Masaka Regional Police Spokesperson says they acted on new instructions from the District COVID-19 taskforce that asked them to restrict the influx of people in the town given the apparent threat of community COVID-19 transmission of the area.

He alleges that people had resumed converging on the streets of the town without adhering to the safety guidelines of physical distancing which presented high risks for spreading the virus.

Herman Ssentongo, the Masaka Resident District Commissioner also the taskforce Chairperson says the decision was taken during an emergency meeting on Wednesday with an intention of reducing the risk of community transmission of the virus, which is apparent in the area.

According to him, halting the reopening of the general merchandise shops comes in the wake of increasing cases of community COVID-19 transmission; with four cases so far registered in the area, within a space of three days.

Ssentongo argues that their decision was based on the apparent structural inadequacies to manage the rising number of patients, thereby preferring to prevent spillovers that can overstretch the available capacity.

However, Musa Kaboggoza and Deo Kasibante, the Chairperson and Masaka Traders Association and Vice Chairperson respectively, have criticized the Taskforce for creating confusion despite the losses they have so far suffered.

Kaboggoza has also blamed security entities for not notifying the community in advance and instead moving to unleash anger on the innocent businessmen who were observing physical distancing guidelines.

The affected traders have blamed the district taskforce for arbitrarily taking what they describe as inconsiderate decisions that are incoherent with President Museveni’s decision that cleared them to open-up.

Despite closing the shops, some of the traders are still seated on the streets