Kampala, Uganda — Uganda on Monday lifted its two-year COVID-19 curfew, allowing bars and nightspots to re-open. Excited revelers celebrated the end of one of the world’s longest lockdowns.
A reveler who only identified herself as Peace said she has been drinking every night of the lockdown.
Uganda imposed the nighttime curfew in March 2020 in a bid to limit the spread of the coronavirus, which has led to about 3,500 deaths in the country.
Every night, businesses had to shut down at 7, and no cars were allowed on the streets.
Peace tells VOA that during the lockdown, she ventured into bars owned by government employees that continued to operate in secret but charged high prices for beer.
Excited, she said she is happy she can now drink at her favorite local bar.
“But I’m glad that they opened,” Peace said. “I can manage to go out. I can freely move with a boda. Or I can drive. Like here, three beers at ten thousand. So, if I move out with fifty thousand, I can spend the whole night.”
The government lifted the curfew on Monday, but some restrictions remain.Anyone wandering into a bar or restaurant must wear a mask and show their COVID vaccination card.
Fred Enanga, the Uganda Police spokesperson, cautioned the public to adhere to the health and safety protocols if they do not want to return to curfew.
“Therefore, it is important that all proprietors and managers in night life and the night economy carefully manage the reopening of their business in the safest possible way,” Enanga said. “Where possible they can have ventilation systems in all venues, Sanitation stations throughout the venues.”
Chris, a manager at the High Five bar in Kampala, is hoping to recover the losses he has incurred in the last two years. Monday’s business was disappointing, he said – he didn’t get as many customers as he wished.
The real challenge, he said, could be implementing the safety measures.
“It has been two long years without operating. It is difficult to really tell everybody, show me your vaccination card or certificate,” Chris said. “Nonetheless, we have sanitizer, all the waitresses are vaccinated and we believe we are ready.”
As Uganda attempts to return to normalcy, including the night life, statistics from the Ministry of Health show that as of Sunday, the country had recorded about 160,000 cases of COVID-19.
About 12,5 million people have been vaccinated, well short of the government’s target of 20 million.