The World Health Organization (WHO) last week warned that the Covid-19 pandemic was accelerating in Africa after cases jumped from 100,000 to 200,000. Africa reportedly topped the 200,000 mark on Tuesday.
Tracked scientifically, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s regional director for Africa noted that it took the whole of 98 days to reach the first 100,000 cases but and only 18 days to move to 200,000 cases. That’s frightening, to say the least!
WHO had previously warned that Africa could quickly become the epicenter of the disease, a claim that was attacked by skeptics eager to wish away scientific reasoning. Last week, Africa had reached 5,635 deaths from 210,519 confirmed cases, according to AFP. These are too many to some of us. Our wish is that all the sick recover, get discharged and there are no more infections.
Africa has enough baggage in its hands to take on a crisis driven by Covid-19 which has wreaked havoc in more economically viable countries like U.K, USA and Italy.
Who had attributed Africa’s relatively low case count to the fact young populations are less likely to contract and die from the disease and the fact that the pandemic is still concentrated in and around capital cities. All that is understandable but the worst bit will if Africans begin to take things for granted.
In Uganda, from a trickle of cases weeks and a few months back, we have started having tens of cases daily, sending the count well over 600.
This came at a time when measures to contain the high risk but essential group of truck drivers had been heightened. But mostly, step by step moves were being made to lighten the heavy lockdown that went into full mode in much. Private vehicles with a limited number of passengers, public transport vehicles with a limited number of passengers and opening up of some business and work premises were among the measures announced by President Yoweri Museveni, to much relief for the public. At last more people could go to work or travel to see relations they had been separated from for months.
Sadly and frighteningly, the gradual opening has coincided with a spike in cases. At the same time, people continue going to public places without wearing masks even as the country records more community cases. Social distancing is being thrown to the wind. Standard Operating Procedures (S.O.Ps) as recommended by Ministry of Health are being ignored-anyone can do a survey or observe in their neighbourhood the magnitude of laxity.
Some are being misled by the George Floyd protests in America where social distancing has been thrown to the wind but America’s fortune or misfortune is not our problem at this time. We have our own lubimbi (responsibility) of keeping alive and protecting others from infection. The key to unlock the lockdown is in our hands as the lock for hardening it is also in our hands. Total discipline is the name of the game or we perish.
Meanwhile, people have equally gone lax on other serious diseases HIV/AIDS because they have heard that one can live on drugs and survive to live a full lifespan. Others are deluded that there is a cure? I am averse to imagining how many new victims are getting infected on account of listening to false medical prophets and quarks. It has been said that Ugandans may survive Covid-19 but find themselves in a health crisis from other communicable diseases. The very measures that keep Coronavirus at bay work on the same principle that protects against other infectious disease.
On Corona, we had allied as Ugandans regardless of divergence in other spheres of life but that then devil is always inviting itself to the table-some unseen forces are tempting poor Ugandans to experiment with their lives-and those of their loved ones.
We has been fortunate that no Ugandan has died of the disease (at home, since some Ugandans have died in other countries) but instead of kneeling down and thanking God and tightening safety precautions, some are waiting for people to begin dying in their neighbourhood to realize that the disease exists and that it kills. Pictures of rows and rows of coffins in Brazil and Italy have not sent any message yet other countries admire Uganda’s record and luck. Do they imagine that those coffins are staged or filled with dummies? Who wishes to volunteer to be the first to die of the disease if they still doubt its potency?
Unfortunately, this is no time to experiment.
A lost life cannot be restored. If safety guidelines continue to be violated, there is no end in sight for the lockdown. You and I hold the key to lifting the lockdown and kicking Covid-19 totally out of Uganda-and Africa, and the world!
The author is a Presidential Assistant in Charge of Media Management
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