A Christmas not so merry but hope springs eternal across East Africa

A Christmas not so merry but hope springs eternal across East Africa

Kampala residents leave the city on December 23, 2021, to celebrate Christmas upcountry. PHOTO | MORGAN MBABAZI | NMG East Africans are spending the Christmas festivities with a dark cloud of the fast-spreading Omicron Covid variant, government curbs, and financial pressure from the pandemic effects hanging overhead.

From vaccine mandates to travel hassles and curfews; rising cost of transport and consumer goods and the January school opening, citizens are facing tough choices between austerity and making merry as Omicron infection numbers soar, despite a drop in hospitalisation and deaths from Covid-19.

For Rwandans, this will be the second Christmas under a curfew, with no gatherings, live bands and clubs permissible. Save for Uganda, the rest of the region enjoy curfew-free festivities.

Uganda is still under a dusk-to-dawn curfew instituted by President Yoweri Museveni in March 2020 as a means to control the spread of the coronavirus, and this year’s festivities will be marked in muted celebrations.

Last Saturday, Kigali authorities imposed the 10pm curfew, suspended popular mass sports and the car-free day, in new Covid-19 restrictions as the country grapples with a fresh wave of virus infections.

“Everyone is requested to be vigilant and avoid mass gatherings as Covid-19 remains a threat,” municipal authorities announced Friday. The Prime Minister’s office issued “additional measures to control further spread of the virus” only three days after Cabinet had suspended night clubs, concerts, live band entertainment and returned remote working rules for employees. Temporary closure

“The Ministry of Health may temporarily close public or private premises with identified clusters of people infected with Covid-19,” Rwanda’s Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente said in a statement.

While bars, restaurants and all services held at places of worship are allowed, they are restricted on the number of people they host, but “in Kigali and secondary cities, all clients, attendees must be fully vaccinated. Event’s organisers will be penalised for non-compliance with health measures,” Mr Ngirente said.

In Kenya, despite the cloud of uncertainty and stringent government measures, thousands flocked to bus stations as they sought to travel to their rural areas for the festivities, enjoying restriction-free Christmas as compared with last year when they had Christmas under lockdown.

In July, President Uhuru Kenyatta lifted restrictions on movement into and out of the Nairobi Metropolitan area, paving the way for a conditional resumption of public service vehicle operations, which had been halted since March 2020 to contain the spread of Covid-19.

In Nairobi, buses heading for […]

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