By Milly Babirye Babalanda
On Friday, June 18, 2021, President Yoweri Museveni addressed the nation as the Coronavirus/Covid19 situation escalated.
At the time, the country had recorded an upsurge in numbers of infections and deaths in unprecedented figures.
To stem the tide, the President a strengthening of measures against the tide of the disease.
Key among the measures was reimposition of lockdown countrywide, pushing forward curfew hours and banning cross district travel.
The lockdown imposed was to last 42 days and came into force on June 20.
This second lockdown after the one of last year was in response to a second wave of the disease which wave was a result of many factors among which was reduction in vigilance of the public in observing Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).
Had this new lockdown not been instituted, I believe that the situation would be too bad.
The second wave has taken many of our people (may their souls rest in eternal peace) and seen a huge number admitted.
Those still in hospital, it is my prayer that you make it out.
Covid-19 is not a death sentence!
The 42 days of the current lockdown are elapsing in a few days and the president will be addressing the country to update the public on the situation as it stands.
He will spell out “what next” and this could involve extending the lockdown, scaling it down, relaxing the measures or tightening them.
It all depends on the informed reports he has on his table and the advice of scientists.
Any mistake made at this time could take us back to the pre-June 18 situation.
Yet people are hard pressed with life’s demands; they are out of work, yet in need of food, rent, medical care and they have taken a hit from the pandemic in all ways imaginable.
Everybody is asking “when is this whole thing coming to end?”
I am sure everyone wants the lockdown to be lifted.
I am certain that the President wants normalcy restored, yet he wants everybody safe.
We have already witnessed how the situation has improved, and how this validates the wisdom in the President’s interventions which, despite the great inconvenience to persons and government, have not been in vain.
Last year at the height of the political season when some groups of people were dismissing the threat of Covid-19 and actively urging the public to defy safety guidelines, the President said what we were dealing with was not a matter of convenience but survival.
That wisdom still stands, and even more apparent since the disease has visited almost every community and people can no longer deny its nearness.
For that matter, if it requires suffering a little more inconvenience to our normal ways of life for the sake of surviving to enjoy life tomorrow, let us all do our part to keep Covid-19 at bay.
Vaccination is going and government is committing ample resources to ensure that a reasonable number of people are vaccinated since this reduces incidences of acquiring the virus, suffering and dying from it and spreading it to others.
We shall receive proper updates on the vaccination drive.
For now, I wish to advise that from my take on these things is that the decision to remove or relax lockdown and other measures will depend on public behavior in these last days as the 42 day period comes to an end.
People have been very disciplined; they have been observing SOPs, curfew times, avoiding unnecessary travel and socialising.
They have been avoiding public transport, save for some few cases of violators but who have been brought to book as an example.
If this discipline and vigilance is upheld, I would have no doubt that normalcy would be possible and the President would eagerly announce that.
However, I have started seeing people openly violating the SOPs, boda boda and private vehicles are ferrying passengers.
As we get closer to the end of the current lockdown, mistakes are beginning to be made and that could see a new one imposed, which would be hard on us.
From the start of the pandemic until this point, Uganda has performed relatively well against the disease on account of excellent guidance from the top leadership, commitment of medical teams, enforcement of regulations by security teams and compliance by the general public with the safety directives.
Without a clear end in sight, we need to maintain this “wall” at all times until we see the last of the disease or learn to live with it as it is said in sections of the scientific community.
In other countries, lockdown has been lifted and instituted as and when the situation warrants.
The problem is that as soon countries open up, people lose their sense of caution, infections skyrocket and lockdown is put back in place.
People want houses of worship reopened, schools and institutions of learning reopened (so that teachers and non-teaching staff resume their jobs and learners progress academically); public transporters want to be back in business, government and businesses want their workforces back on duty but that without strict adherence to SOPs and other measures, chances of a new lockdown being introducing are very high.
The bottom line is that each of us must be responsible for our individual and collective safety if normalcy is to be restored.
For now, I can’t read the President’s mind.
The author is the Minister for the Presidency