Arcades have remained closed since March 2020, when the government first announced a lockdown to contain the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Although in easing the lockdown, the government lifted restrictions on malls, the lockdown was maintained in arcades because of the envisaged difficulty in avoiding close contact between people.
Many of the shops in the arcades around Kampala measure about 20 square meters, are sub-rented, and have neither corridors nor parking space for vehicles, according to Trade minister Amelia Kyambadde.
During a recent inspection of arcades in Kampala, the manager in charge of health inspection and education at KCCA, Dr Emiliano Ahimbisibwe said buildings will only be reopened after being inspected and cleared. However, the inspection team observed that a number of the arcades did not qualify to reopen under current restrictions.
Amidst the controversy surrounding the continued closure of arcades, Kampala Capital City Traders Association (KACITA) mobilized traders to disregard the presidential directive and reopen their shops today. In the leaflets, which were used to mobilise the traders, they were advised to observe all the standard operating procedures set by the ministry of Health.
The traders heeded to the call and reopened the shops around Capital Shopping Centre, Jesco Shopping Centre, Nana Centre and areas adjacent to Kisekka market, among others. But they were countered with heavy police deployment which resulted in running battles between police and the traders.
Police forcefully closed the shops to the annoyance of traders, some of whom went on top of the building and started pelting stones targeted at police cars. A number of them said they are starving and cannot continue staying home when the rest of the business community is operating normally.
Owners and operators were advised to install closed Circuit Television Cameras (CCTV) at each entry, exit and level and a body temperature screening for clients and attendants using functional infrared thermometers, as some of the conditions for reopening of the arcades.
According to the minister for Kampala and Metropolitan Affairs, Betty Amongi the guidelines were agreed upon after a series of meetings between KCCA, the ministry of Health, ministry of Trade and the representatives of arcade owners. The meeting followed the inspection of the premises by a team of specialised from the different government departments.