By Milly Babalanda
The first Coronavirus case in Uganda was reported on March 22 (2020), about five months since the outbreak in Wuhan, China, where it all started. It was days and weeks since initial cases were reported in our neighborhood. We had been holding our breath hoping that the infections would not catch up with us but that was not to be.
It’s coming three weeks since the virus invaded our territory. Stringent measures to stem the spread were upgraded, in the process of which the social and economic situation of our country was adversely impacted. Events have since run so fast. The term “lockdown” became an unexpected reality of our times, with an initial lockdown being announced by our dear leader, President Yoweri Museveni, on March 30.
As of today (as I pen this article), no deaths have been recorded in Uganda and the number of infections remains staggering in the small fifties, few new or no infections at all being reported each day. Some patients have been discharged after healing, a warm discovery about the raging virus; it is not so deadly if caution can be taken and we continue to do so with utmost care for the wellbeing of one another.
President Museveni continues to provide strategic guidance and leadership to consolidate the gains. On Tuesday (April 14), he announced a follow-up lockdown of 21 days, taking time to elaborate why it was necessary to extend the lockdown, despite the painful inconveniences arising. It was too early to relax!
Prior to announcing the new lockdown, Uganda had recorded positive appraisal for its anti-Covid-19 efforts by none other the World Health Organisation (WHO). WHO believes that Uganda’s response has been quite enviable (and worth emulating).
We need to remember that Covid-19 is a global pandemic. Uganda’s performance, therefore, is judged in comparison with the responses of other countries including the developed ones, in this case US, China, Spain, Italy, U.K-all these have fared much worse since their infections and deaths range from anywhere between 10, 000s to 100, 000s. Possibly, they have just been unlucky and it is not a competition to see who survives earlier or faster. We are in this together as humanity. It should be noted that Africa has fared better in this crisis and anyone can provide strategic leadership for the world to defeat the enemy. It can be our president to lead the front; every leader or individual can do something unique that will see us put Covid-19 behind us.
Uganda’s position has benefited from the habitual emergency mode we have been in overtime in response to outbreaks of Ebola, yellow fever, measles, Crimean Congo hemorrhagic fever (CCHF) and Marburg— in regular succession in recent times. The outbreaks have occurred internally- and externally, but close to our borders as was the case of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
On previous occasions, Uganda helped Western African countries (Liberia and Sierra Leone) overcome outbreaks that threatened to wipe out their populations.
While this might put Uganda slightly ahead of other countries in the region in terms of readiness, we are not taking any chances.
Under the overall guidance of President Museveni, the ministry of health, with support from various partners, has put in place a comprehensive response plan that is guiding ongoing anti-Covid-19 activities.
The partnership leaves nobody behind; from leaders across the political, social and cultural spectrum, to technocrats and medical experts, donors (regular and upstart), and the ordinary Ugandan heeding specific guidelines and directives, it is a united front against a common enemy. The oneness in this case has never been witnessed before. It should become our standard way of doing things.
At this juncture, victory is in sight and we should not relent or make careless mistakes. We should be ready to make a few more sacrifices just to be sure. With discipline and caution,the three weeks lockdown extension will make all the difference. Please, let us bear with the wholesome set of measures for human continuity’s sake!
In between, Government will continue making interventions to mitigate pressures experienced by the population in every way.
This is a peculiarly challenging and thought-provoking season in the known history of planet earth and a rude reminder that we survive together or perish together. Let’s use the occasion to prepare better for the foreseeable and unseen. We should also raise our scientific research profile by joining the medical community searching for the vaccine and cure. It’s not beyond us to try!
Some people thought that Covid-19 was the milestone for the end of the world but that is not true. The world is still here. It will only end for those who ignore warnings for safety and the few self-seekers exploiting the difficulties of the population for their own ends.
I have also heard of medics betraying their profession by skipping patients, fearing infection. If this is true, they must be replaced and real “fighters” brought in to safeguard collective interest. President Museveni’s revolutionary call in this era of Coronavirus is a service to the world at large and a chance for Africa to offer strategic leadership.
*Milly. B. BABALANDA* Personal Assistant to the National Chairman, NRM, and Senior Presidential Advisor (Political Affairs)