I arrived at Entebbe Airport on 28th July aboard KLM chartered flight for evacuation of Ugandans. We were received with high level of seriousness and caution. Our hand bags were sprayed with disinfectant followed by sanitisation of hands before getting to the immigration desk. We had won face masks from our points of origin, throughout the flight and at Entebbe Airport was no time to remove them though our ears were already sore because of the tight straps.
Time at the immigration desk was short and off into the baggage hall to collect our checked in bags, which too had been sprayed with disinfectant. Instead of the usual arrival exit, we were led back to the air side to be processed for our specific quarantine destinations. The process took a good two hours and included disinfecting the vehicles and several consultations between officials on which car would take us and how we would be guarded to the quarantine sites.
At 3.30am, 29th July I arrived at one of the government quarantine facility and was ushered into my room by a kind and gentle military officer. We spoke English but I later discovered he knew Runyankole – Rukiga, which we spoke once in a while during my stay. Although well trained, gentle but tough, the officers’ work was made easy because none of the residents attempted to escape. Everyone had come ready for the stay because the pre-departure guidelines given by the Uganda’s ministry of foreign affairs were succinctly clear of what to expect.
For 14 days the government fed us and treated us with high level of care including psycho-social counselling. I had expected nothing more than posho and beans but the government proved me wrong. The food was better than many ordinary Ugandans can get on daily basis. In fact, posho and beans were rare among the food stuffs served. Infection prevention and control measures were taken very seriously, none of us was allowed to go beyond the gate to interact with public or even family members. Temperatures were taken twice a day so much that I asked whether it was necessary to have two agencies taking temperature from the same person daily. In law they say, “innocent before proven guilty” the reverse was true for us here, “we were guilty before proven innocent”. In other words, “sick before proven not sick”.
An initial and end time negative laboratory test result was a must for one to stay in the quarantine facility and later on to be discharged from the facility to join the public. All in all, I was very impressed by the care, the precautions taken and seriousness exhibited by the government in Entebbe. It felt like we are on top of everything needed to win the battle against COVID-19.
Kampala’s lack of SOPs a cause for concern
On 13th August, I was discharged following a negative laboratory test result from Uganda Virus Research Institute. The driver and myself clad in our face masks we headed to Kampala. I was shocked what I saw in Kampala, I could count the number of people wearing their face masks.
For a week now, I have visited different parts of Kampala and Wakiso and in most cases looked odd man out for wearing a mask. People seem to have moved on and left COVID-19 to take care of itself. The scientific evidence we have so far is that the corona virus (SARS-CoV-2) spreads faster in congested places and spaces like shops with less fresh air circulation. Wearing masks in such spaces should be a must though people seem to have given up too soon. Many shops still have hand washing facilities but these are hardly being used by the public.
Wearing masks, hand washing or sanitising all the time is quite inconvenient but they are the only tools we have to keep this virus at bay until such a time when vaccines become available. Whoever is in a position of leadership, please do lead by example. People trust in leadership is crucial for them to believe and follow the COVID-19 prevention guidelines.
His excellency President Museveni has led by example but some of the team members have betrayed the cause and should be called to order. COVID-19 is very good at exploiting cracks in the system and we must deny it any crack. Managing people in a lock down is easy but lock downs are more devastating socioeconomically and increase mortality from other diseases and conditions. Another lock down is dangerous to Uganda and should not even be contemplated. We should invest in measures that are affordable and work for Uganda and leave expensive lock downs to countries with spare cash to keep their economies fueled and everyone’s salary paid. I agree with the minister of health plea for individual responsibility because every individual has a role to play in this fight.
In actual sense wearing a mask is meant to protect others and so if we all wear our face masks we will protect each other. Nevertheless, individual responsibility does not take away the need for exemplary leadership on the COVID-19 front line.
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