Coronavirus has been widely talked about. We believe there is nothing that has ever made headlines like this pandemic, thanks to the numerous media outlets all over the country and social media. As of today, Uganda has 33 confirmed cases of the virus, with no death. There are so many ways available for all Ugandans to access information. Some local leaders have taken a step of moving door to door, sensitizing their electorate. Grace traveled to Mayuge in a very remote village recently and was amazed at how everyone was aware of what is going on.
However, much as sensitization is the best preventive measure, there is a wave of panic among most Ugandans, largely because of people’s perceptions and attitudes towards the calamity. The fact that the world’s richest countries have been hit hard is reason enough for people to panic. Uganda does not have developed facilities and systems. People have little confidence in our health care system and the ability of leadership to implement strategies that will sustain the lives of Ugandans.
We are in hard economic times so most people are worried about the expected economic effects of the pandemic. Survival is hard. Public transport was shut down as a directive by the President to minimize the chances of the spread of the disease. Motorcycles are not allowed to carry any passengers. Boda bodas (motorcycle taxis) have been a good source of income for hundreds of thousands of families and now they have no means of earning any amount of money in a day. I believe more than 60% of parents in our project earn their daily income through this job. Such low income earning jobs do not give people a chance to save. So the situation is hard for the majority of families that are not earning daily.
Shutting down transport paralyzes everything else. Business is interrupted and that leads to increasing prices of commodities. Business owners have no way of moving from place to place to keep their businesses stocked. Boda bodas are only allowed to transport goods, but that still doesn’t sustain most of the businesses. On the other hand, consumers have no means of traveling to large markets or business centers in town. So traders of perishable goods must be wise on how much they can stock, or whether they should stay in business after all. Home deliveries are really very limited to the rich, and on a very small scale.
Some people bought large quantities of food, but you can’t tell how much you will need to survive on till the end of the pandemic. Despite the president’s threat to arrest those who will hike prices, certain products like hand sanitizers still remain unaffordable. The price of basic things like table salt has risen by up to 300% in certain places. The price of soap is still relatively stable and the government is working to ensure that things remain accessible to all Ugandans. Food items vary depending on where you go, but generally, there is a noticeable increase. However, the rules of economics may be the ones to determine the way forward: demand determines the price of the product. Most people believe and are calling upon the government to remove revenues on products so that people access them at production cost.
This is just the beginning and the situation is expected to worsen. The president will address the nation in about four hours from now and he is expected to tighten on the restrictive measures to combat the disease. If the situation worsens, it is expected that all businesses will shut down and everyone will have to stay home.