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Covid-19 update: Nigeria reopens places of worship, Uganda schools stay shut

Mr. Gwala, headmaster of the Ithute Higher Primary School, poses for a portrait in an empty classroom in Alexandra, Johannesburg, on June 1, 2020.
Mr. Gwala, headmaster of the Ithute Higher Primary School, poses for a portrait in an empty classroom in Alexandra, Johannesburg, on June 1, 2020. © AFP - LUCA SOLA

Some governments across the African continent are cautiously coming out of Covid-19 lockdown, such as Nigeria, which on Tuesday reopened churches and mosques, with social distancing restrictions in place. Others like Uganda are postponing a return to normal daily life.

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In Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni announced that schools for final-year students would be postponed one more month as not enough test kits are available to test students every two weeks as proscribed.

The president said that each village would be given two TV sets in order to help students continue through televised school lessons.

"Two television sets per village equals to 140,000 TV sets in the country," he said in a televised address.

The delay comes as Uganda's dusk-to-dawn curfew is set to continue for three more weeks, with movement still curtailed.

Public buses and matatus (private minibuses) can operate, but only at half capacity, while motorcycle taxis are banned from taking customers but can transport goods.

Some Ugandans have taken to social media to express their concern.

Part of the government concern is the slight spike in coronavirus cases over the weekend, with 84 new infections. The current caseload is 457, with no deaths recorded.

The government will begin to distribute face masks and has called on people without masks to stay at home.

President Museveni also announced that a review of some 4,000 people who had been arrested at the beginning of the lockdown period would be carried out, and those who have petty cases would be released from jail.

Shopping malls are open, but people must observe social distancing rules. Although some movement has returned to Uganda, nightclubs, bars and gyms will be closed for another three weeks.

Churches and mosques are not allowed to open for a further 21 days.

Nigeria returns to places of worshippers

While churches and mosques in Uganda remain shut, Nigeria has decided to open all places of worship on Tuesday as part of lifting its Covid-19 restrictions.

The coronavirus task force stipulated that only regular religious gatherings would be possible, and social distancing necessary in order to keep the churches and mosques open.

The lockdown in Nigeria was enforced on 30 March only in Lagos state, Ogun state, and in Abuja, the capital. Other states, such as Kano, imposed their own requirements in order to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Nigeria has 10,578 cases with 299 deaths, according to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

While Ugandans will continue to observe the dusk-to-dawn curfew, Nigeria has eased up on the hours, only requiring people to stay at home between 11pm and 4am.

The range of places and services that will be allowed to open varies – while people can return to work and worship, any other functions that have more than 20 people are restricted.

Banks have reopened on Tuesday.

Domestic air travel will return to the skies on 21 June, but schools, parks and bars are off limits.

South Africa eyes return to school

South Africa’s Department of Basic Education said that schools  for grades 7 to 12 throughout the country would open as of 8 June.

President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed parents’ fears in reopening the schools during the pandemic in his weekly letter to South Africans.

“Though we may feel anxious and fearful as our sons and daughters leave our care, we must draw courage from the fact that every effort is being made to protect them,” he wrote.

“As parents, you have entrusted us with the welfare and safety of your children. It is a responsibility we do not take lightly. In the days and weeks to come, we will be closely monitoring the return to school,” he said.

Class sizes will be smaller, and social distancing will be exercised. Ramaphosa said that schools would have enough personal protective equipment and water and sanitation services

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