The South Sudan High Level Taskforce for COVID-19 has extended the country’s partial lockdown until further notice. That means all schools and most shops will remain closed, as will South Sudan’s borders and Juba International Airport.
The government was expected to lift the partial lockdown Monday, but at a Tuesday night meeting, the health ministry's task force on COVID-19 decided to keep it in place indefinitely.
Some residents in the capital, Juba, think the lockdown is unnecessary, but say they believe the borders should remain closed.
Nancy Kiden, a 22-year-old Juba resident and single mother, runs a salon in the city’s Jebel neighborhood. Kiden said it will be difficult to make ends meet if her salon remains closed much longer.
“Since I completed my training in 2017, I was working in a salon in Uganda and I came to Juba. I was operating in salon, I have enough customers, but starting this month, I don’t have customers; no money these days, and I am broke and don’t know what to do with my family,” Kiden told South Sudan in Focus.
Women in particular are struggling to feed their families, according to Kiden.
“I wish the corona will disappear so that next month I can resume my business. I can get up to 8,000 South Sudanese pounds in a day. I save another and eat also from there but now it is [the] worst because [there are] no customers and I am just staying at home,” Kiden told VOA.
One female bar attendant at Juba’s Jebel market, who preferred to be identified as Stella for fear of government reprisal, said some bar owners continue to operate despite the partial lockdown. Whenever security agents arrive, she said, bar owners and operators pay bribes to stay open.
With few known cases and many aspects of life continuing much the same as before, Juba resident Samuel Kenyi said people should be allowed to go to church.
“Our country up to now we have only four cases, and most of those affected are foreigners and only one from us here, so what the government is to do is to close only the borders. For us here, people are doing their activities, bars are open, some shops are opened and if all this is happening, why should they close the church?” Kenyi told South Sudan in Focus.
Akuoc Ajang Nyanhom, chairperson of the South Sudan Civil Society Alliance, said people are asking questions about the restrictions.
“We have appealed to the government also to look to a situation where small business will not be affording now to bring food to the table as others are now closed, for example salons or haircuts they are not working now, how are they going to survive,” Akuoc asked.
Akuoc called on the government to provide humanitarian assistance to vulnerable Juba residents.South Sudan has four confirmed cases of COVID-19 and has quarantined more than 100 people who came into contact with the four confirmed cases.