Lockdown is still on in Uganda, but generally, things are getting better. A lot of adjustments to ease the situation have been done through several addresses by our president. However, the number of confirmed cases is more on the rise than ever before. The tests are largely done at points to target track drivers from the neighboring countries.
There are no statistics of community cases of coronavirus because there has not been random community tests that are representative of the entire country population. Tens of thousands of tests have been done on people who have been traced as contacts of confirmed cases.
Most of the confirmed cases are asymptomatic and we believe the rate of spread in communities could be much higher than the authorities think. There’s nothing special we are doing to stop the spread of the virus that the rest of the world is not doing. Ugandans have even relaxed after seeing that things have turned out to be different from the initial expectations. As of now, we have 522 confirmed cases. Generally, that is not bad considering the fact that more than half of those cases were foreign track drivers who were eventually sent back to their countries.
Africa has a total of 165,179 cases and 4,631 deaths. Egypt alone has 1,088 of those deaths, which is by far the highest in a single country on the continent. Whether we can attribute the low rate of spread to lockdown is debatable. Tanzania never had lockdown and has 509 confirmed cases with 21 deaths.
The president of Tanzania (who is a chemist by profession) was first criticized by many for not putting the country under lockdown, but all that criticism is no more. The people who died in Uganda due to lack of medical care, hunger, and brutality of law enforcement as a result of lockdown are arguably more than the 21 recorded Covid-19 deaths of Tanzania.
Curfew starts at 7:00 pm and this is not going well with private vehicle owners who find themselves caught up in traffic jam in curfew hours. Many have had to spend nights at police stations since the president refused to extend curfew to 10:00 pm as many were requesting.
Today is when public transport has opened in Uganda with vehicles carrying not more than half of their capacity. This has increased transport costs by a big margin, beyond what small income earners can afford. I was doing simple math this morning to find a rough estimate of expenditure on transport for some categories of people. Depending on distance, some can actually spend their entire monthly income on transport! That’s why people chose to walk to work this morning. We hope this situation will gradually improve.
Schools are not going to open soon according to the president. Candidates were expected to resume this week, but this was reversed in the most recent public address on Monday evening. The president said the government cannot afford to test school children periodically nationwide. He (not sure whether he was joking) suggested that the government would consider giving about two TVs per village or one radio per family! This, of course, became the subject of mockery on social media.
If children gather to attend class on TV, there’s no difference between that and them being in class at school. They would still be crowded and perhaps fighting to catch a glimpse. Again, pupils are at different levels and classes and the government cannot afford to broadcast lessons for all classes every day. Well, whose home would children gather in and who would supervise the class?!
Radios do not offer visual interaction and no child would sit alone to listen to a teacher they have never seen face to face. And it is actually incredibly expensive to buy a radio for every home in a country of 45 million people. I’m sure Mr. Museveni had not well thought about this point in his speech. So we will wait for more information about opening schools in two weeks’ time when the president will address the nation about coronavirus. Today he is giving a state of the nation address so he will not tackle some of the issues in detail.
As if the pandemic is not enough, there’s this problem called racism, which I think is humanity’s worst disorder. You might think it’s only out there, but the recent events in the United States are all over the internet and have, to quite a big extent, distracted most people from coronavirus news. It’s not a topic I’m talking about today, but I want you to know that God created us as one people. The scripture of the good Samaritan clearly shows that the one who will help you is not necessarily of your race. It teaches us to unite and stop looking at our geographical boundaries or skin colors.
I am proud of the beautiful hearts God has placed in each one of you and all our team members. The children and families we serve need to be loved and that’s what exactly we’re doing and will continue to do. We’re deeply grateful for the love and care you give towards the children here in Uganda and the commitment you make in order for them to have an education and a better life.
For now, I would like to leave you with these words from Luke 4:18-19: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”
May God continue to comfort and keep you in His presence.