Temperature gun operators at Gulu Main
Market have abandoned work citing lack of facilitation and insults from members
of the public.
While reopening public spaces following the nationwide lockdown
because of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the Health Ministry issued Standard
Operating Procedures-SOPs to contain the spread of the virus.
These included among others providing hand-washing
facilities and temperature guns to measure the temperature of people accessing such
As a result, the managers of Gulu Main Market set up handwashing facilities at
the three main entry points of the market.
They also installed handwashing facilities and
purchased temperature guns for measuring the temperature of people entering the
However, there has been unrestricted entry and exit by the market users for the
past three months. The majority of the people entering and operating in the
market don’t wear face masks. The water tank for hand washing is no longer in
Nighty Amony, one of the temperature gun operators, says that they stopped
taking people’s temperature in October last year.
“We have the temperature guns
here, but no one wants to have their temperature taken. They keep saying there
is no corona, so we can’t take their temperature by force,” Amony said.
that the problem was compounded by the fact that after some months, management
stopped providing soap for washing hands.
//Cue in: “Jo ma gio ni…”
out: …pe romo yer.”//
“Those who enter the market started telling us that they wouldn’t wash hands
without soup. We requested them to wash hands without soap but the openly
Nighty Latigi, another temperature gun operator and resident of Obiya highland,
says they worked for five months without lunch allowance. According to Latigi,
working on an empty stomach coupled with insults from members of the public demoralized
//Cue in: “Apwoyo Lubanga ni…”
Cue out: “itye ka pimo yeto.”//
“Thank God that I did not contract the virus while taking people’s
temperature, but we endured insults from people here. Others could openly tell
us to go wash our husband’s clothes if we were idle, or go and serve as
waitresses in food stalls instead of doing this job. Others even wanted to slap
us. Even those whose temperature was being taken could not hold their hurtful
Latigi claims that when they contacted the market leaders about non-payment,
they were told to take the matter to the Gulu District Covid-19 Taskforce
Chairperson. Geoffrey Omara, a resident of Pece, says he also stopped taking people’s temperature at the Main Market in November 2020 due to lack of payment and
insults from the people he worked on.
Omara, a father of four, says he left his business of vending onions because he
was promised a monthly allowance of Shillings 150,000 and Shillings 4000 for
lunch each day. He, however, says they were never paid any monthly stipend even
for a month while lunch was only paid for the first four months.
He says the lack of facilitation coupled with insults from the
community made him abandon the work.
//Cue in: “Mako this temperature gun…”
Cue out: …pingo watye kenyu.”//
“The main problem I faced when operating the temperature gun was insults from
the people, especially the women. People perceived that we were forcing them to
have their temperature taken.
Some could say were have failed to run our families that is why we had resorted
to such kind of work.”
When asked why the temperature guns are not being used, Francis Megolonyo, Gulu
Main Market Master, claimed that he was not aware that the temperature gun was
no longer being used.
He later claimed that they could have gotten spoilt and
were taken for repair.
//Cue in: “An pe aniang…
Cue out: …niwek kiyubi…”//
Megolonyo could not immediately respond to the complaints of non-payment of the
temperature gun operators.
The laxity to observe the SOPs at the Main Market
comes at a time when Uganda continues to register more Covid-19 infections and
Uganda has so far registered 38,534 cumulative cases and 305 deaths. At
least 40 people have succumbed to the virus in Gulu district alone.