COVID-19 pandemic and human nature; the Ugandan experience

Corona Virus infection spreads like a wild fire, from its epicentre in Wuhan city from China to most parts of the world. In Uganda 36,407 confirmed cases have been officially registered by 6th of January 2021. 290 so far have succumbed to the scourge and over 1.89 million all over the world. The cumulative Ugandan recoveries are at 12,387 people, thanks to Ministry of Health, National COVID 19 task force and all Ugandans. Now Uganda is at stage 4 where the spread is practically uncontrollable. How did this come about to happen to Uganda and the world, which is a million dollar question.

My article will primarily focus on Uganda though I have a penchant for understanding the nature of the spread. Is It because of globalization with increased travels in a connected world especially among the more privileged? We previously had Ebola virus in DR Congo, Sierra Leone and Uganda but none has managed to go beyond the borders, or  is it because Corona virus is super airborne.

There are many aspects that have made the human race weather the storms of threats to its survival; primarily being Homo sapiens possessing wisdom. However some ignored attributes like a contagious smile is worth a mention. Smiles are contagious and spiritual, once hidden; there is innumerable suffocation of the human psyche. Smiles keep on reminding us of who we are; human beings. Wearing of masks is one of the undeniably crucial methods of stopping the spread of Corona virus infection in addition to hand washing, keeping a ‘social distance’ and most importantly testing and tracking contacts. It is quite affecting to perpetually miss a smile as simple as it may seem due to wearing of a mask as recommended by the medical experts. We still do it because the benefits outweigh the risks.

Secondly, keeping social distance as stipulated by the experts from my point of view is as nearly impractical as avoiding touching your mouth, nose and eyes. Many people tried but  though to its shortcomings they have faltered. They managed at least to avoid shaking hands and hugs. Keeping a ‘physical distance’ is another important prevention measure but on the lesser extent still affecting who we are psychologically as social beings.

It is important to acknowledge that all these restraints are in the best interest of  the population in Uganda and inhabitants of the entire world. Another danger is a large number of asymptomatic infections in Uganda and Africa which would be a threat to other largely prone populations of the world. The Ugandans try their best to comply with the mitigation measures to avoid being the corona virus ‘reservoir’ of  the world.

Curfews and staying at home has been a double aged sword, very critical at the same time anti-social. They have had numerous benefits. I have experienced invaluable connection to my family especially during the lock down. With most of the entertainment world shut down from closing cinemas, theatres, sports arenas and music concerts. The only repose to give a rest to the eyes is family. The bond amongst members grew stronger and we were reminded that when the worse comes to the worst, we all go back home. At the same time couples who are having latent resentment and anger, by spending a lot of time together  at home, their situation  has spawned  into domestic violence especially gender based especially due to slow economy after and during lock down.  

Here in Uganda schools are still non-operational especially those of non-candidate classes and non-health science students since they are places of high concentration. Many young adults and teenagers have been sexually abused and most of them getting unwanted pregnancies. Many pupils don’t think they will enjoy school any more. The teachers especially those of private sector have laid down their tools for over 10 months now. Many of which have ventured in entrepreneurship, building Small to medium enterprises where by those successful now seems to be an illusion to get them back in class.

The hospitals bed capacity is full most importantly the intensive care units. Nambole stadium COVID 19 treatment centre, Mulago National Referral Hospital and Kiruddu in conjunction with Ministry of Health have advised patients to be managed at home under self-isolation especially those with mild to moderate symptoms. Those who have lost their loved ones succumbing to the pandemic have be reinstructed by the Authority to cautiously burry their loved ones themselves. This has come following shortage of funds.

In the political arena, the Presidential candidates and others have been allowed to speak to a maximum of 200 people which has been a challenge as to who should control the crowd; the presidential aspirant or Ministry of Health in partnership with the Electoral Commission. It is rude for the one canvassing for votes to repel his/ her supporters. This has bred violence where many people have died as the security operatives try to implement COVID 19 prevention measures.

As we wound up the year 2020, as a tradition most folks in December travel back to their places of origin  termed as ‘Villages’ to celebrate with their distant loved ones the end of year holidays. The Ministry of Health warned that people from areas of high COVID 19 prevalence like Kampala not go to the ‘villages’ as a gift to their loved ones in order to curb the spread in country side. The long-time tradition was to a large extent broken in year 2020.

By. Mugerwa Muzamil,