The easing of restrictions by South Sudan amid COVID-19 has brought relief to many people like Amin Musa, a 45-year-old businessman who deals in construction materials at the once bustling Gumbo suburb of Juba.
He told Xinhua that the restrictions imposed since March 25 that involved closure of non-essential businesses amid dusk to dawn curfew, have left him hurting as his business is now mired in debts besides leaving him with little income to feed his family of six.
“We, the business people are happy for resuming our work, which is the only source of our livelihoods,” Musa told Xinhua on Sunday as several businesses opened up.
“The loss I have incurred in terms of cash cannot be estimated but I have lost many clients during the lockdown. I was squeezed financially because my savings took a hit and had to survive on borrowing from friends which has left me in debts,” he added.
Many South Sudanese have been affected due to the slowdown in cross-border trade regional countries due to fears of cross-border transmission of COVID-19, tightened borders that are crucial lifelines for cargo trucks bringing in essential goods like food, and medicines to South Sudan.
Juba’s easing of restrictions amid rising numbers of positive COVID-19 cases has not been entirely welcomed, especially by medical experts.
The South Sudan Doctors Union (SSDU) in a joint statement issued last week, described the move as reckless because it would spike COVID-19 infections, thus overwhelming the fragile health care system.
Denis Duku, a 20-year-old who operates his commercial motorcycle business, despite being relieved by the relaxing of COVID-19 restrictions, also expressed fears of COVID-19 cases surging.
“We were just surviving during the restrictions by violating the directives to work in search of money for food, and most often we got into trouble with security agents,” he said.
“We have been instructed to resume work but still COVID-19 cases are increasing which means we should keep the social distancing order to avoid contracting the virus,” added Duku.
The youngest nation prior to COVID-19 global pandemic was already being overwhelmed with litany of problems like food insecurity with the UN estimating at least 6.5 million people, half of its population will face acute food insecurity this year, due to combination of factors like conflict, flooding and invasion of desert locusts.
Deng Garang, a 37-year-old father of four whose cloth hawking business had been disrupted, said that prior to imposition of the stringent rules, he and his colleagues had little savings which were quickly depleted during the partial lockdown.
“We thank the president for giving us this chance of re-opening up the markets because we do not have any more savings or other means for feeding our families,” Garang said.
“We were suffering so much, the market that we relied on for the little money used for sustaining our lives got completely closed, children at home remained without basic needs, they were thirsty and hungry,” added Garang who also added that the situation inflicted emotional pain as some of his children got sick.
Another trader Nelson Abuna, who hawks used clothes, said he is happy to finally resume business uninterrupted as staying at home for him with his six children had come with its toll of emotional stress and costly expenses.
“It is joy everywhere and joy to everybody. You cannot keep me in the house because when you close business you are left desperate and with no option other than seeking another way of survival,” he said. Enditem