On the other hand, the existence of high quality medical care in rich countries means that many people who would have died of diabetes or high blood pressure or other lifestyle diseases are kept alive through medical services. They also live to old age. These are the two categories that either die or are badly affected by COVID. It is this category of people that scared the West leading to massive shutdowns of the countries in order to slow down the pandemic. Poor Africa got scared and followed similar draconian measures yet they were largely not necessary; at least not to the degree we did.
One year later, this is the lesson we should walk away with and begin to reopen our churches, schools, bars etc. When I travel to my village I never hear stories of people dying of cough. Yet I think there is COVID there. I visit markets where people trade without social distancing, sanitising or wearing masks. Even the few election rallies we had did not lead to the spike we saw in the USA. We therefore adopted measures meant for countries with old populations who are also filled with large numbers of people with preexisting conditions.
We can say that our governments did make a mistake that was understandable. Here was a new disease with little information about it. Therefore from this perspective, the shutdowns are understandable. However what is intriguing is that one year later and with mountains of evidence and hindsight, we are slow to change our attitude. Schools, bars, etc. remain closed to the detriment of many income earners. Children remain home yet they are the least affected demographic in the COVID killing brackets.
What can Uganda do based on what we have learnt in the last one year? First we need to open the country back to normal. We can emphasise use of masks, sanitising and social distancing in public buildings. We can also insist schools put in place some procedures to reduce the risk of infection. In fact this is better for the kids and their parents because both now go to markets where these procedures are not followed. Therefore the kids or their parents can bring the disease from markets to homes. One wonders the wisdom of government of Uganda fearing children getting COVID from schools but not from markets where they are not spending most of their time.
The biggest problem most nations of Africa face is a lack of originality in the design and implementation of practically every policy except sex and marriage. We tend to copy and paste the solutions based on textbook theories, which are based on the Western experience – an experience that does not reflect our reality. COVID has taught us that we need to study our reality and design a response based on our specific reality. Will anyone hear this message?