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COVID-19: How prepared are countries to prevent the 2nd wave

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Added 10th April 2020 08:36 PM

Uganda is showing signs of achieving the objectives of the measures, namely; stopping the further entry of the virus into the country, reducing further spread of infections within the country, preventing COVID-19 patients from overwhelming the healthcare systems, and keeping the case fatality rate flat and low - currently at zero.

COVID-19: How prepared are countries to prevent the 2nd wave

Maj (Rtd) Fred Bwino Kyakulaga (MP)

Uganda is showing signs of achieving the objectives of the measures, namely; stopping the further entry of the virus into the country, reducing further spread of infections within the country, preventing COVID-19 patients from overwhelming the healthcare systems, and keeping the case fatality rate flat and low - currently at zero.

By Maj (Rtd) Fred Bwino Kyakulaga (MP)


I salute President Museveni for exhibiting effectual leadership against all odds during the on-going COVID-19 global disaster.

There is no doubt that the sweeping measures he instituted in his unprecedented seven addresses to the nation in two weeks since 20th March 2020 are working.

Uganda is showing signs of achieving the objectives of the measures, namely; stopping the further entry of the virus into the country, reducing further spread of infections within the country, preventing COVID-19 patients from overwhelming the healthcare systems, and keeping the case fatality rate flat and low - currently at zero.  
By 3rd April 2020, Uganda had registered a total of 48 people living with the virus who are in stable condition and undergoing treatment compared to more than 100 cases for Kenya, Rwanda, and DRC who are our immediate neighbours, and of course not forgetting that S. Sudan has joined in the fray by confirming its first case.

I also salute Ugandans for putting aside our differences in confronting this common enemy. At this rate, I am optimistic that in the coming 8 to 12 weeks, the President will declare Uganda free of COVID-19. Indeed, I encourage us all to soldier on towards that milestone against the odds we are facing.

However, I must say that I am disappointed. COVID-19 debate in the region and particularly in Uganda is falling short of suggesting what we shall do as countries to prevent slipping back into the renewed COVID-19 attack as we bask in the glory of the anticipated victory.

So far, I have noticed only Prof Sami Mahroum, a columnist in the East African, brushing at introducing this angle of the debate in his article "Governments face balancing act in enforcing complete lockdown for long periods".

For starters, Xi Jinping declared Wuhan City, where COVID-19 started; free of the disease and his country reported fewer than 20 new confirmed cases besides 14 deaths out of the total population of 1.4 Bn on 2nd April 2020.  At the peak of the disease, a China recorded 15,000 confirmed new infections per day in Hubei province where Wuhan City is located.

China embraced many draconian measures, including a total lockdown, closure of food and wild meat market, spraying the entire province and some other parts of China among others to lockout entry of the virus as they dealt with internal spread, which has worked for them.

The puzzle now for China and all those nations (including Uganda) that are doing well in the war against COVID-19 is - once they attain a disease-free status, how will they keep that status for 12 to 18 months, the time the world is anticipated to take to get a vaccine against the novel virus.

In my view, this is the debate that must ensue. In Uganda, I have been hearing people expressing their expectation that the lockdown will be in force for two weeks only. Anybody who thinks like that would be exhibiting naivety.

If a second wave of the coronavirus crisis is to be prevented in jurisdictions that will in future be declared COVID-19 free, lockdown must be maintained for a period long enough to allow work on a vaccine to succeed before opening up.

Experts estimate this period to be between 12 and 18 months. Countries must also be cognizant of the fact that even when a vaccine is finally rolled out, its mass production to cover the global population will take years and our "big brothers" will get access to it first.

Based on the above, nations must brace for running measures to keep the virus at bay for long periods, probably more than a year. This duration should be taken into consideration while designing sustenance measures to cater for economic and psychological impacts. Government roadmaps (elections, creation of new cities, etcetera) must also be aligned to this reality.

I concur with Prof Sami Mahroum who suggests that under these circumstances, there is a need to boost the financial and mental resilience of the communities affected by lockdown rules by making rules that combine a viable level of economic and social activity with strict social distancing policies.

Such rules would include for instance systematically screening people in various categories like students, farmers, manufacturers, traders, etcetera before isolating them in their respective workspaces like schools, villages, factories, markets, etcetera and thereafter using armed forces to stop the further entry or departure from "sanitized" spaces save for controlled movements for medical emergencies. This arrangement should be coupled with infection preventive hygiene and daily monitoring of key indicators of an infection like temperature/fever. Cargo delivery systems and voice calls or online ordering of goods, as well as mobile money and agent banking systems, should be made cheaper and well developed to further lubricate this arrangement.

If this kind of organization is developed and an enabling environment is put in place, a certain level of economic and social activity will be able to be mixed with strict social distancing measures sustainably as we buy time for developing a vaccine for coronavirus. And by so doing, nations will be able to banish the unsustainable practice of giving handouts to victims of this crisis and allow governments to only foot bills for healthcare and the much-needed quarantine of persons confirmed to be carrying the virus until they cure or pass on.

For God and My Country!

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