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Handwashing Craze Wanes in Kampala Despite COVID-19 Surge

At the height of the lockdown which started in March last year, hand washing stations had been set up at the entrances of shopping malls, supermarkets, arcades, markets, and taxi parks. Among other public spaces. Here, guards would remind every person to wash their hands, before entering the buildings. It had become a practice for some and a habit for many as campaigns intensified.
handwashing has been promoted as a best practive to beat covid-19

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Kampala City dwellers are increasingly becoming relaxed and ignoring hand hygiene practices, that had been adopted at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The practice, which had been part of personal hygiene, religious and cultural customers for centuries, has been promoted the world over as one of the most efficient interventions to tackle infectious agents on the hands and disrupt the transmission of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

At the height of the lockdown which started in March last year, hand washing stations had been set up at the entrances of shopping malls, supermarkets, arcades, markets, and taxi parks.  Among other public spaces. Here, guards would remind every person to wash their hands, before entering the buildings. It had become a practice for some and a habit for many as campaigns intensified. 

But the trend is changing. Taxis no longer enforce hand washing, yet the hand washing stations at the malls and shopping centres are almost becoming redundant. Many are empty, with no water and those that have water, have no soap. And, no one cares, even when customers walk past the station without washing their hands or if they choose to just splash water in their hands, without actually washing them. 

Hilda Wamala, a front desk officer at Equatorial Mall in Kampala says that many people still doubt that coronavirus in Uganda is a reality. She attests that a number of customers opt to walk away, when reminded about hand washing, wearing masks of even sanitising. 

"They had that period of time where they were doing everything and they were very devoted and now they're tired and want to return to their daily lives," she said. Similarly, Jane Kyakoonye, a trader at Mukwano Arcade says people think they would have already died if there was coronavirus in Uganda. 

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Surprisingly, people working in areas with congested numbers were the most "relaxed". These include the taxi parks, arcades, St. Balikuddembe market, motorcycle riders, and taxi operators.  

Hamza Mugisha, a motorcycle rider at St. Balikuddembe market says he only wears a protective mask for fear of the law enforcers arresting him, but he has no clear intentions of following the COVID 19 guidelines.

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A 2020 research by Twaweza East Africa’s Sauti za Wananchi had earlier found an improvement in the handwashing statistics during the COVID 19 pandemic, even though people were initiated into the habit of washing hands after visiting the toilet and before eating food. 

Marie Nanyanzi, a Program Officer at Twaweza East Africa says that if the practice is not maintained, the sanitation levels among people will decline and the coronavirus may increase in spreading among people.

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Uganda has registered 39,860 COVID-19 cases since the outbreak last year. Of these, 327 have died and 14,440 have recovered.   There are 25,093 active cases in the country.         

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