The latest is, Macau, an autonomous region on the south coast of China has shut its casinos, neighbors; Russia, Singapore and Japan are increasingly isolating China, as the number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus rose above 20,000 and Hong Kong reported its first death from the quickly spreading pathogen.
The risk posed by this new virus is real and heightening every other day. That leaves us, Ugandans, either to our own devices or we have to develop strong and practical means of shielding ourselves from infection.
For now, many questions remain unanswered. We do not know how the new coronavirus first emerged, how easily and fast it spreads, or its fatality rate. It is worrisome more-so for Uganda, a country short on diagnostic kits and skilled health workers to handle this elusive virus.
Our health officials at airports and other entry points may not necessarily be in position to swiftly detect let alone catch infected incoming travelers.
The virus takes about 14 days to incubate, and during that time an infected person may not manifest any symptoms such as high temperature. Until we have answers, it is hard to assess how much of a threat this virus is. Incoming travelers are simply subjected to temperature checks at airports, which are quite deceptive and are allowed into the country. Uganda has to take cue from other countries.
We need to be boldly vigilant without appearing to be discriminatory. We should not single out a particular race for exclusion but we shouldn’t also let in anyone from the virus’ epicenter easily. Travellers from the epicenter should come here only for very essential business. Non-essential travel should be discouraged.
The World Health Organisation is worried that if the virus breaks out in countries with weak health systems, it will ravage them. We know what Ebola has done to us. We don’t need to catch this very new unfamiliar virus that has migrated from animals, to humans.
Most global airlines have suspended flights to China until the situation improves. But some African airlines continue to fly to China. These indirect flights may bring in passengers with the virus.
The ideal protective measure should be to quarantine all passengers from China for two weeks. Taiwan evacuated half of its 500 students from China. They were immediately quarantined on arrival at Taipei airport. China’s neighbours and the USA have done that before. We cannot run away from the reality.