Uganda yet to see worst
Whereas the Health ministry insists that all cases being reported among contacts of truck drivers are under quarantine, the increase in such cases and those being reported in districts like Kampala that are not on the border are worrying. Some reports indicate that there a few community cases whose source of infecting contact is known.
Dr. Atwine says, for now, instead of Ugandans being worried of another COVID-19 lockdown they should seriously adapt the measures put in place to control the pandemic. Such measures include washing hands with soap, wearing face masks, and keeping social distance of at least two metres apart, and avoiding unnecessary movements into public places.
Analysts say Uganda’s COVID-19 planners made two strategic decisions that were correct but not right. One was rushing into locking down the country when it had zero cases and the other was easing the lockdown just when the confirmed infections were beginning to rise and had not peaked. These decisions have impacted on how the country can move forward.
Many Ugandans now appear opposed to another lockdown. The current lockdown has eased sporadically. On June 4 public transport was partially allowed country except border districts. But borders and air travel, schools, places of worship, large gatherings remain locked. And infections are rising significantly.
Dr. Atwine says the first lockdown was perfect given that “it helped us delay the infections especially when our neighbours were reporting high numbers of COVID-19 infections. The first lockdown helped us a lot to minimise the movements and it was critical to our fight against this pandemic. It was a timely decision. When you compare the number of infections in countries in the region and on the continent, Uganda still has the least number of infections.”
She argues that there is no perfect time for lockdown. “Each country looks at prevailing circumstances, and then decides whether to lockdown. So there is no formula for COVID-19 lockdown,” Dr. Atwine says.
But Dr. Musenero says Uganda is yet to see the worst due to complacency. She says Ugandans are no longer afraid of COVID-19 and have abandoned wearing masks and social distancing.
She says Uganda’s health system used the lockdown to prepare itself, but the Ugandans who were supposed to benefit from it will see no benefits if there is no behavioral change.
Data from the health ministry shows that at the time when Uganda confirmed its first case on March 21, the level of awareness and fear of COVID-19 stood at 60%. Recently, the fear of the disease among the population has reduced to as low as 20% in some parts of the country.
It seems Ugandans are more worried of a lockdown than of catching COVID-19. This could be due to lockdown’s paralysing effect on people’s socioeconomic welfare.
In his Heroes’ Day address, President Museveni his government was carefully easing the COVID-19 lockdown with a hope that Ugandans will keep discipline and follow guidelines from the Ministry of Health to minimise the spread of the virus. He said it does not make sense for the police to enforce physical/social distancing, wearing of masks, etc. “given that it’s your life”.
He warned Ugandans who are questioning the relevance of safety measure when Ugandans are not dying of COVID-19.
“I have done my part warning you against this disease. Stay at home and avoid unnecessary travel,” the President said, ““If you want proof that Coronavirus kills, you will get it.”