Today the 1st of June 2020 makes it two months and about three days since HE President Yoweri Museveni announced a series of public health and social distancing measures in a bid to prevent the rapid spread of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic that had already ravaged Wuhan City of Hubei Province in China, and was rapidly spreading to many parts of Italy, Spain, United Kingdom, The United States of America, Brazil, South Africa, Egypt, Algeria and other parts of the world.
In his usual candid way, he told the kept the whole country glued on his social media platforms, Television and Radio stations waiting for his guidance. To make points sink in, he told Ugandans of Bush war tactics where soldiers matching in the thickets would, on hearing any strange noise, or seeing any unusual movements, the commander would say ” _simama_” (swahili for stop) and there after the soldiers would take cover on the ground and observe their surroundings to ascertain whether the source of the noise or movements paused any threat to them, before they would embark on their journey to their destination.
The President also took Ugandans through the signs and symptoms of COVID-19 being ” _okwetsyamura_ ” (Runyakitara for sneezing), dry cough, fever, uneasiness of breathing and others . He then advised Ugandans to Stay at home, wansh and Clean hands often using soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand rub sanitizer, to maintain a safe distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing, not to touch eyes, nose or mouth, to cover the nose and mouth with your bent elbow or a tissue when coughing or sneezing.
This was coupled with closing schools, airports, places of worship, shopping malls, bars, meetings and seminars, sports, public transport, private transport for non essential categories of service providers and a night curfew was also imposed.
The purpose of these measures as alluded to earlier, was amongst others; to assess the threat paused by the spreading pandemic, to sensitive the population other pandemic and how to avoid it, to avert its quick spread to the population, to assemble a well equipped state machinery ready to fight back the pandemic and ensure safety of the citizens should the pandemic become endemic.
It is worthy noting that,
_“Uganda has been in the world headlines since the mid-1980s, first as a nation severely hit by HIV and AIDS, and later, from the late 1990s onwards, as the first country in sub-Saharan Africa that has managed to reverse a generalised HIV epidemic.
Countless newspaper articles, television and radio documentaries and broadcasts, papers, books, and films have been produced about AIDS in Uganda, making the epidemic one of the most thoroughly researched and documented in the world.
Medical doctors, virologists, epidemiologists and social and behavioral scientists, both Ugandan and expatriate, have produced massive amounts of scientific information about it since the early 1980s, in addition to which there have been policy papers, evaluation reports, and action plans produced by various government ministries, international donor agencies, and national and international NGOs and relief organizations which document the epidemic from administrative, developmental, and humanitarian perspectives.
Uganda’s AIDS epidemic has been publicized worldwide through the news media and various international agencies. It is being constantly monitored not only by national authorities and international health experts, but by myriads of Ugandan and international organizations, media, academics, and concerned members of the public using modern means of communication. Some of these national and international bodies not only monitor, report and educate, but demand their say in how the epidemic should be managed.
Uganda has become a testing ground for medical and behavioral interventions, as exemplified by AIDS vaccination trials, the social marketing of condoms, antiretroviral treatment, and, recently, by the male circumcision trial. Positive results have then been marketed to other countries in sub-Saharan Africa as successful AIDS prevention strategies_ ..” writes The Cambridge University Press.
As confirmed cases of COVID-19 stand at 457 today and luckily with no death so far, it proves that where as the measures were put in place in time, it may be difficult to assume that the Corona Virus will not spread further and that we have contained it.
As thus Uganda may have to begin thinking ahead of time and appreciate the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic is here to stay. It is a new normal that we have to learn to stay with, the same way we learned to stay with the HIV AIDS pandemic from the early 1980s.
HIV remains a global killer even with various measures in place from prevention to case management.
The measures should be relaxed further in a phased manner so that we avert a great foreseable risk of economic slowdown or even collapse.
This is the next phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The writer, a Certified Public Accountant, holds an MBA (Finance and Accounting) is Secretary General of the National Youth Council of Uganda and can be reached on WhatsApp number +256775549199