Uganda’s government took swift and strong action when the COVID-19 crisis emerged, enforcing a strict lockdown. While other countries continue to struggle to contain it, Uganda has just over 5000 cases with only 58 deaths.
Uganda’s figures are considered more reliable than most African countries. It has carried out more than 250,000 tests and works closely with international institutions to monitor infections.
Uganda closed schools and banned large gatherings three days before confirming its first case on March 21. By the end of March, most businesses were shut, vehicle movement was banned, and an overnight curfew was in force. Masks became mandatory in public in May.
Previous Ebola outbreaks prepared Uganda for how to screen passengers effectively in airports, create isolation wards, and trace those infected.
Although these measures have had great success in preventing the spread of Covid-19, which would be devastating to a population that has limited access to healthcare, there has still been a cost. Some women were unable to reach hospitals due to the travel ban and died in labor. Security forces have been criticized for overzealous enforcement of the curfew. And the economic implications are devastating.
A recent survey by the Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC) in Uganda reveals that three-quarters of the surveyed businesses have laid off employees due to the risks presented by COVID-19 and subsequent containment measures. Indeed, the results suggest that lockdown measures have reduced business activity by more than half. A majority of small businesses, particularly in the service sector, predict they will have to close within one to three months if the pandemic persists and current restrictions are maintained. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/africa-in-focus/2020/05/19/impact-of-covid-19-on-micro-small-and-medium-businesses-in-uganda/