Many times, things tend to get worse before they get better.
Courtesy of Nation Media Group
We were working towards a new normal in the prevention and control of the COVID-19 pandemic- getting fully vaccinated and strictly adhering to the SOPS especially social distancing. Then on the 26 th November 2021, WHO declared a new ‘variant of concern’ of the COVID-19 virus and named it OMICRON.
The virologist tell us that all viruses make mistakes as they copy themselves and these genetic mistakes are called mutations. Viruses mutate constantly especially those that contain RNA genetic material as the Corona viruses and influenza viruses. Most mistakes are so small that they do not significantly affect how the virus works. Those mutations that are significant help the virus copy itself and get into the host’s cells easily. Some fade away and others render the virus weak.
There are over one thousand COVID-19 variants but few like: delta, alpha, beta and gamma are labelled as ‘ variants of concern’. They cause increased rate of transmission, increased hospitalisation and increased deaths. They also affect the effectiveness of the available vaccines, making COVID-19 hard to defeat. COVID-19 respiratory disease is a new disease and scientists and ordinary people are learning as they go along. It may take another two to four weeks to know what we need to know about this Omicron variant more so on how it may influence the course of the pandemic.
As of the 3rd December 2021,the Johns Hopkins coronavirus resource centre showed the following statistics:
Globally: 265,876, 379 Confirmed Cases
5,256 285 Deaths
Uganda: 127,655 Confirmed Cases
4,835,777 vaccine doses administered
912, 993 people fully vaccinated ( 0f 47,791,313 based on Worldometer)
% of Population Fully Vaccinated 2.06%
195,302 Confirmed Cases
1,430,084 Vaccine doses administered
People fully vaccinated( of 2,418,722) 508,980
% of Population fully vaccinated : 22.09%
I was among the first 300 individuals in my country to get the first dose of the Astra Zeneca/Oxford coronavirus vaccine on the 10th March 2021. By mid- May , I had received my second vaccine dose and my “Fully Vaccinated” certificate.
Since then, I have been encouraging the vulnerable members in my community to get fully vaccinated while continuing to adhere to the Ministry of health Standard operative procedures.
Little wonder then that I found the news of the emergency of the highly mutated Omicron variant very disturbing.
My young sister in UK, another in Sweden and my son from Cape Town, South Africa, were planning to join me and my mother in Uganda for the festive season. I had something heart-warming to look forward to since I last saw the three of them at the Christmas of 2019!
With the travel restrictions that have swiftly been put in place, the reunion is not likely to happen this year!
The pandemic has gone on so long that it has somehow eroded my mental wellbeing. I have developed what the psychologists refer to as the illusion of control. This is a tendency to overestimate how much control you have over the outcome of an uncontrollable situation.
My moods have been swinging like a pendulum- one time I feel I have some control of the outcome and another time I feel powerless. I tend to become anxious and more stressed.
I found some encouragement by reading the psychology of surviving in complex situations.
While dealing with challenges in life, the outcome can be controlled by you or external forces
- If you believe that you have control over what happens, then you have what the psychologists call internal locus control.
- If you believe you have no control but external causes are to blame, then you have external locus of control.
- No one can have 100 percent internal or external control in any situation. It is all relative and is in our mind-our thinking.
- Locus of control influences how we respond to situations that happen in our lives. It motivates us to take action. Without it, we tend to resign to fate and become passive bystanders.
These factors helped me realise that I still have some level of control over the situation. I should focus on the small things like going in for a booster once advised, sticking to the social distancing and taking good care of my health.
Doing these things that fit in the big picture, make me feel good about myself and more motivated. Suddenly , I become an active participant that can have an impact on the outcome. It gives me some of my power back and I feel relaxed and less stressed.
One African proverb encourages us to do something however small, in any given situation:
If you cannot fly, run; if you cannot run, walk; if you cannot walk, crawl; but by all means, keep moving.
The psychologists advise us to do a number of things to overcome this illusion of control.
- Try using an outside perspective so that you do not rely on your own thinking. You have to consider credible information from other sources to get a balanced picture.
- Think Scientifically- this is the best way to overcome the illusion of control. In the case of COVID-19 pandemic which is yet to go into its third wave, Science and facts from WHO and Min of Health help you make better judgements.
- Seek other people’s opinions- knowledgeable people to gain some outside perspective and other factors that you had not thought about.
- Be inspired to practice healthy behaviour like regular exercise, healthy eating, regular medical check-ups and having adequate regular sleep – seven to eight hours at night.
I cannot resign that there is nothing that I can do that can make a difference. Let each one of us commit to the goal- controlling the epidemic by investing time and energy in effective, helpful action right where we are.
Dr.Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the World Health Organisation Director- General, wraps it up neatly,
“We’re all in this together. And we can only succeed together.”
“No one is safe until everyone is safe.”
Do you realise that the global pandemic response to the COVID-19 virus begins with you in your home?