In March 2020, President Yoweri Museveni in an effort to control the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) ordered a phased lockdown of the country.
Movement of persons to workplaces, markets, hospitals were restricted and subjected to the discretion of Resident District Commissioners (RDCs)! One had to seek permission from RDCs to move a patient. Non-essential workers were ordered to keep at home.
And this applied to both public and private workers. Schools, nightclubs, shopping halls were all shut down. The public transport system including boda boda riders was prohibited. There is no official government report to show whether the lockdown was effective or not in slowing the march of the virus.
But business owners and landlords are still scarred by the severe and prohibitive economic consequences. People have lost livelihoods, their sanity and homes due to domestic violence. People have been killed by law enforcement enforcing lockdown restrictions.
The country is still smarting from the debacle of the November 2020 riots triggered largely by the selective and hardline army and police enforcement of the Covid-19 standard operating procedures during election campaigns.
In Uganda where majority urban dwellers live hand-to-mouth, it was easy to see from the outset that lockdown would be unfeasible generally. It is very difficult to tame a hungry and angry people. You can’t cage a lion you cannot feed, so they say.
One would have thought that the lockdown was useful in helping Uganda establish a healthcare infrastructure that can cope with the Covid crisis. Lockdowns were a microwave fix for the novel coronavirus. A lot has happened since the pandemic first broke out a year ago.
Today, we have vaccines, there’s a tested and proven treatment regime and awareness about the virus; its spread and symptoms is quite high. We don’t need hardnosed methods of fighting Covid, which are very costly to our fragile economy and livelihoods.
Covid is a health issue that needs health interventions, not military or law enforcement solutions. The latter trigger resistance and resentment. The ministry of Health needs to work on its messaging. Negative and, fear-mongering campaigns don’t work.
Intensify campaigns to educate Ugandans about the new variants and how to fight them. People should be guided on how to handle patients of the new variants.
Also, the home remedies should be encouraged. Ugandans should be advised on how to take advantage of the 900,000 vaccines Uganda received. Above all, vaccination must be intensified.
In a recent joint statement, COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access, COVAX, said countries that are advanced in their vaccination programmes are seeing cases of COVID-19 decline, hospitalisations decrease and early signs of some kind of normality resume.