Had it been rain, I would have said that a trickle has become a flood
Had it been a fire I would have said that the simplest bonfire has become a wild bush fire.
But it is the new Coronavirus, COVID-19, which slowly crept on the world in late December 2019 and has now spread almost to the whole world. According to worldmeters.info, the new virus has infected 1.4555,522 , killed 83,664 and 309,825 recovered from it to date .It has forced us to be locked in. In Wuhun , China, the strict lockdown lasted 76 days! It caught us unprepared and unable to tackle such a huge health problem which is now feeding into an economic crisis!
Lockdown has become very familiar; Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and South Africa are in it. Japan joined the group on the 7thApril 2020 and Ethiopia has just joined.
I must admit that African countries like Sierra Leone, Uganda and Liberia which had the painful experience of managing the devastating Ebola epidemics in the past, came out aggressively on COVID-19 from the onset.
As of today 8th April 8, 2020, here in Uganda ,we are in day 9 of the 14- day of the government – imposed lockdown and a curfew from 7pm to 7am.
Everyone else has to stay at home except those offering essential services in hospitals, pharmacies, supermarkets, food markets and security.
What is happening in the whole world has never happened before so no country had time to prepare for it. Initially, it felt so far away in China but now we have 53 confirmed and linked cases in Uganda and thankfully, no deaths yet. The ministry of health has been giving a consistent message about the COVID-19 ,follow up reports on suspected cases and daily update of new cases.
By 6pm today, BBC had reported 10,700 confirmed cases in Africa, South Africa having the highest number -1749 while Algeria follows close by with 1,468.
This morning, wearing a surgical face mask, I walked down to the nearby open pharmacy to buy my mother’s regular drugs. Life is almost unrecognizable: streets are almost empty, pavements are free of street vendors and bodabodas and the whole area is relatively quiet.
A herd of cows was crossing the street at leisure. Mobile money kiosks were open to allow people to send and receive money from loved ones. I crossed the ever crowded street with utmost ease.
These days, the commonest sound in the streets is the wailing of the ambulance sirens as they rush seriously ill general patients to hospitals. On the 30th March, both public and private transport were banned. The dusk-to-dawn curfew could be extended depending on the surge in new cases.
By sheer coincidence, 41 years ago around this time, Kampala streets were empty as many people had fled to their villages to avoid being caught in the cross fire between the UNLA and Obote 11 government soldiers fighting to control the city. This was a physical war unlike the current one where we are fighting an invisible enemy and trying to stop it spreading while at the same time trying to save as many lives as possible.
At home, there are three of us in a house surrounded by a perimeter wall, my octogenarian mother ,our young helper and myself . We have kept to ourselves since the 22nd March. The young helper keeps herself busy watching soap operas on the television while my mother prays relentlessly on the Catholic Radio Maria. However, the three of us listen to the late news , official Ministry of health updates and the President’s weekly public address about the pandemic together.
Never in my whole adult life have I ever I had so much free time to myself with minimal distractions and with my mother as well. It has allowed me to do a lot of things that I had pushed to the side.
I am concentrating on keeping my body, mind and spirit in top shape in this confined space. I remain hopeful that the pandemic would be over sooner than later.
At this moment in time, I am religiously applying the mantra: A healthy Mind, a Healthy Body, knowing very well that health is my greatest wealth.
I have to pay attention to what I eat, think, feel and do every day.
- Taking care of my body- I have struggled to maintain a routine by waking up by 8am, keeping active during the day and sleeping around the same time at night.
Out of habit, I start each day with some exercises for almost an hour; to strengthen and tone my muscles. I have been doing fifty push-ups every morning for a long time.
I take timely meals; eating to be healthy, eating a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables. Thankfully, I can still harvest lemons ,some vegetables like red and green Amaranth (Dodo) ,carrots , beetroot and rape from our small garden. Our regular bodaboda delivery man can buy us oranges, watermelon, passion fruits , pawpaws from the nearest markets. The mangoes are scarce.
By habit I take more than two litres of water daily but I must admit that my old mother beats me at this. Water keeps us hydrated and helps to remove toxins from the body.
Adequate sleep – As human beings, our bodies follow a daily cycle, responding to light and darkness in our environment. This is the 24 hours natural internal clock in our brains known as the Sleep/Awake cycle or Circadian Rhythm. Our energy and focus dip and rise according to this cycle . Generaly, it dips from 1:00pm -3pm then again, between 2am and 4am.
Regular sleep habits keep this circadian rhythm working at it best. Each one of us requires 7-8 hours of quality sleep to function normally. During sleep, the body repairs itself and the proteins needed to fight infections and inflammation are released . Getting less sleep results in poor immune responses, opening us up to recurrent infections.
To stay healthy especially during this COVID-19 pandemic , ensure that you sleep 7-8 hours at night. Adequate sleep combined with healthy balanced meals rich in fresh fruits and vegetables will keep the immune system functional and protect you further and reduce the stress on you.
2.Keeping your mind healthy – Mental health is essential for a healthy body. Adequate sleep and regular exercise contribute to your mental well- being too.
We have been living in a fast-paced world and then suddenly we are forced to slow down. It has never happened in our time nor were we prepared for it and yet we are expected to figure out what to do and make it work for us positively. Otherwise we can easily tip into depression or become too angry and resentful.
I have been keeping my mind active by reading novels, writing short stories and blog posts, going back to do the Cross Word puzzles and Sudoku Number puzzles in the old newspapers that I never had time to complete. I have had time to check and file all my important documents. With strict discipline, I limit my time on the Social Media and instead lose myself in reading inspirational blogs, current medical advances relevant to the current COVID-19 pandemic.
I have attended two webinars about Creative writing. I read one Anthology of 52 African short stories second time round in one and half days.
Listening to the daily update of the pandemic on BBC leaves me depressed and I begin to wonder when it will end. I pick up myself by remembering what I was taught by my parents in childhood: In a difficult situation avoid being distressed by focusing on what you can change under the circumstances. Usually it requires me to change my attitude towards the problem thus helping me to regain some of my power and control.
I have been listening to Classic music and digging out some funny jokes that I share with friends for a good belly laugh.
I never forget my professional responsibility so I look out for opportunities to be useful by giving out the right information to alley fear and panic, to encourage and uplift others .These are difficult times for the young and old, married and single , employed and non-employed.
I am Incredibly grateful for the Mobile phone that connects me to family and friends instantly. The mutual love and support is a strong anchor to us. I have a few essential WhatsApp groups that I contribute to. We try to hold together by giving kindness and inspiration. COVID-19 may have taken away our freedom of movement and control over many things but it has given us an opportunity to develop strong relationships. This lockdown period has clearly emphasized to us how interconnected we are from the family level to the community, to the nation and to the world at large.
3. Spiritual nourishment.
I believe in God and his promises. I count my blessings every day; it gives me hope and joy and lines me up for more blessings.
For some years, I have made time to read and study the Bible with the intention of living it in my day-to-day life. The lockdown has given more time engage in this.
All in all, the Bible tells me that there is nothing new; what is happening now has happened before. In all these desperate situations, there is always a group that survives and flourishes. It is very comforting to know that there is a loving God watching over us and walking us to the other side. We shall come out more resilient and wiser.
The news that the first epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, Wuhun, China, was fully reopened at midnight on the 8th April( a day after the official World Health Day) gives us all some hope. It may take a while for us to go back to close to normal: the New Normal but it will come.
Nothing lasts forever but what I know for sure is that the pandemic has changed our lives and the world forever. The lessons we shall learn from this painful , frightening and strange experience will richly inform us as we reset our lives and our world.
The famous 1985 song : We are the World by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie demands collective and coordinated global effort to defeat such a huge health and economic problem .
Our forefathers always knew the best approach to solving enormous challenges:
“ Sticks in a Bundle Cannot Be Broken.” – African Proverb.
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” – African Proverb.
How are you filling up your free time? What are the biggest challenges to achieving what you want to accomplish during this Lockdown?