The New Normal in a Public Place for now
62 DAYS OF THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC LOCKDOWN
Time and tide no wait for no man so goes an old adage. And for sure 20th May 2020 marked 62 days in the COVID-19 pandemic Lockdown in my country , Uganda. It started on the 20th of March 2020 and on the 21 st March, the first case was confirmed in the country , a Ugandan who had returned from Dubai.
As of 19th May 2020, 264 cases had been confirmed and only two of these were from our community; one in Kyambogo, within Kampala City and one in Buikwe, located about sixty kilometres east of Kampala. Sixty eight cases have been treated and recovered and thankfully, no deaths among the patients or the Foot soldiers taking care of them.
Since the 20th March 2020, many of us have remained at home in the interest of keeping ourselves and others safe. Health has been the biggest focus but the economic consequence on the livelihood of the ordinary people who depend on a daily income are biting hard.
The faces of the President surrounded by officials of the Ministry of Health led by Dr. Jane Aceng, the minister, are now familiar to all plus the faces of the officials from the Prime minister’s office led by himself. COVID -19 is a new virus and new findings keep coming out every day to help us understand the virus and to apply the best scientific methods to minimize its spread in our communities. We watched in horror how countries like Italy, Spain, USA, Brazil that have better healthcare systems than ours were overwhelmed by new cases and daily deaths.
Thankfully, our numbers have remained small to be contained by a fragile health care system. But if the numbers were to go beyond 3000, the number of beds in the country set aside to effectively handle COVID -19 cases, then our system would collapse. I thank, applaud and honour all our heath care workers at the frontline of this war against an invisible enemy. They have done a commendable job. This is no mean achievement, they deserve more than gratitude; because for years they have been overworked and underpaid! Their demonstrations towards decent pay have been frustrated on many occasions.
World-wide,Covid-19 has hammered all of us and changed the way we do things.
Regular hand washing with soap and water or with alcohol-based sanitiser, pyhisical distasincing of two metres or more , no hugging , and the use of facial masks have become the order of the day and will remain as part of us for a while.
The race is now on to find quick testing Applications, effective treatment and a safe and effective vaccine because COVID-19 will not just go away and yet life has to go on. Thanks for the advances in science and technology that enable us to collect , analyse and share data and come up with ways of controlling the spread of the highly infectious new virus.
Technology will also help Biomedicine scientists to develop safe , effective vaccines in the shortest time than ever before.
The regular updates form the Ministry of Health continue to educate us about the disease and how to stay safe, the officials build their trust with us and help to dispel the myths and an avalanche of fake information and news circulating on the Social Media. Their consistent, scientific message gives them credibility and authority about COVID-19 in Uganda.
Since, Saturday May 16th we were being made aware of the President’s update on the 18th May 2020 at 8pm.
We waited with great expectations expecting a gradual phasing out and easing of the restrictions to avoid surges or second waves that could overwhelm our fragile health care system.
The update did not come on until after 9pm and continued close to 11pm in the night!
What I did not feel comfortable about was that my freedom to move was being tagged to wearing a mask in public places and the masks were to be made by one company. How is it possible for one company to make masks for all the 40 million Ugandans from age of six years and have them ready by 2nd June 2020! Even in Europe and America masks had to be imported from countries like China. Judging by the food distribution to most needy, the mask will keep imprisoning me where I was! That is the irony of things. Thankfully, I have always kept some surgical- single use, in my house so I may be able to move out of the house earlier than 2nd June 2020. How many ordinary people can afford such?
Apart from the two new cases confirmed from the community on the 19th May 2020, the new cases that kept cropping up were from truck drivers bringing in our essential imports like oil, medicines, machinery to manufacture some of the needed items like sanitizers and masks and taking out our exports like coffee, tea, sugar, steel and cocoa for we are a landlocked country. Yet the 40 million people were locked down in their homes. This faulty line in the control of the infection, demands collaborative and coopearive efforts with our neighbouring countries, to handle this mobile group of people providing an essential service without spreading the COVID-19 infection in our community.
The disease caught us unprepared: no country had time to prepare for the pandemic , we are all learning as we go along, learning from those countries who experienced the pandemic before us. The wisest among any social group learn from the experiences of others.
As an individual , I learn something new every day and I have had to read thoroughly the pathology- the science of the causes and effects of diseases and public health – the science and art of preventing diseases.
When I have too much time on me, I can best use it to reflect on my life , be thankful for the goodness and to reset or adjust the priorities for my future. It is never lost on me that my health: physical, mental and social well-being, is my greatest asset and needs to be protected and promoted. In that case then I would wait patiently for the 6th June 2020.
Family level- the 62 days in lockdown have emphasized to me what is most important in my life. The family as the basic unit of the nation gives us identity and anchors us but at the same time gives us wings to fly away and beckons us back as the need arises. For the majority , home is a place of joy where they are accepted for who they are. Strong families build strong nations. In this current pandemic, nothing fills our emotional tanks to overflowing as talking with loved ones or seeing their faces!
Community- families build up communities where we support each other through thick and thin and give us an opportunity to give back for their growth and development. Our communities shape and mould us into who we are.
National level- the pandemic has brought us together to fight it with what we have. It has brought to the surface our weaknesses like planning and prioritizing the most important sectors like health , education and agriculture and shown that the majority of our population in the rural areas are yet to be empowered to demand more from their government and hold it accountable.
Global- What unites us is more than what divides us. Countries grew closer after the second World War in 1945. The World War 11 meeting of the heads of state of USA,UK and the Soviet Union met in November 1945 at Yalta to reorganize a peaceful Europe and Germany and world in general. They facilitated the newly formed United Nations body by then it had 51 members but currently it has 193 member states. Its main purpose was to maintain worldwide peace and security and foster cooperation on vital fronts like health, that advance human development and social progress.
When computer scientist Tim Berners –Lee invented the World Wide Web and made it available to the public in August 1991, it shrank these countries into a global village. Information and data can easily be collected, analysed , stored and shared freely by the simple touch of a button.
That is why world-wide, people are calling for collective, collaborative and cooperative responsibility to fight this declared global health emergency.
It starts with each one of us in our homes, to do our small role that fits in the big picture perfectly. We can succeed or fail together.
One African proverb can inspire each one us to play her /his role in the control of this COVID-19 Pademic:
“ If you think you are too small to make a difference, you have not spent the night with a mosquito.”