Corona Virus Chronicles from Kampala Part III

Since I last wrote, Standard Operating Procedures appear to be less and less enforced in Uganda. After mask wearing became mandatory, the cops were vigilant about stopping people, even vehicles with one maskless driver. I don’t know if fines were enforced though. At the beginning of the pandemic, President Museveni was leading the country fighting the enemy virus and gave us many presidential addresses educating people and explaining his tactics. Land, lake, and air routes into the country were closed and troops enforced the country’s isolation during a three-month lockdown. Nightly curfew was enforced (and still is), and driving in cars, busses, and taxis was forbidden. The only loophole was that truckers, who were tested at the border, were allowed to continue their journeys whilst awaiting their results. That’s how this sneaky virus entered Uganda, that and some unscrupulous people escaping enforced quarantine. However, Uganda’s Covid-19 infections and deaths are still relatively low.

Source: Ministry of Health, Uganda

The breakdown of the new cases: 31 contacts and alerts: Kampala (12) Arua (3), Amuru (3), Bukwo (2), Lira (2), Mbale (1), Wakiso (1), Kalaki (1) Nakapiripirit (1), Butaleja (1), Masaka (1), Mayuge (1), Mbarara (1) and Jinja (1). It must be said though that 850 thousand tests is a relatively small sample given the size of the population. One thing surprises me; look at the infection numbers, then look at the recoveries and death rates. They do not tally. But this is not at all surprising since reporting is not always accurate. Many people who get better simply walk out of a hospital or clinic and staff forget to register the recovery.

But still, the low numbers intrigued me and I asked my trusty friend Google to help investigate Uganda’s infection and death rates; the average age of the 46.68 million population is 16.7 years; most people live outside; windows in offices are mostly open (AC is not much available outside Kampala); the majority of the population is rural; people in Uganda have lived with many Covids over the years and may have developed some immunity; few people can afford foreign (or indeed domestic) travel. And yet I am still surprised at the results given the fact that social distancing is not practised and mask wearing is negligible (even when worn they are mostly used as chin decorations). Credit must be given however, because most people do the hand-washing bit!

But after almost a year of hearing Covid-related news we appear to have grown weary of it: hasn’t happened to anyone I know so it won’t happen to me. And so life in Uganda continues more or less as normal. I haven’t heard any news or timetables of vaccination plans (although some have been ordered). Traffic is as hectic as ever, air pollution remains three times the WHO cut-off level, and downtown Kampala is still a nightmare of crowded streets and malls. It scares me at the best of times; now I wouldn’t venture there for love nor money! When we do go out to shop once a week, I double mask (the top one an N95 with breathing valve), put the visor and gloves on before going into shops (gloves changes, of course, for each shop), sanitise if I have to touch anything ungloved, and generally come home stressed before cleaning everything in a Milton solution.

And while we are lucky to be living near the lake with mostly lazy warm breezes, some time back I noticed the dogs (who give us much comfort and love) begin to go ballistic when anyone came through the gate – not many have and that’s why they get so excited. A lot of re-training has since been done on re-socialization and noises, and copious of treats have been dispensed as rewards for good behaviour. They have become a lot calmer, but appear to be more needy. Our monastic lifestyle which we do like doesn’t appear to suit them. Recently I bought them a big strong football and that keeps them seriously entertained and exercised when I am too tired to play fetch. Noseball is hugely funny to watch and beats Netflix hands down.

If I am honest, a glass of wine or a GnT has almost become a must at the end of the day, a reward if you like, for having gotten through another one! Now and again I am a bit pessimistic with regard to the future, and at times need something to help me sleep, but mostly I am happy the way we are. Living with Covid-19 in the Internet Age has its benefits: Skype, Zoom, WhatsApp (sorry now it’s Signal) and so on, have become more important than ever in times of no travel, no touch, no hugs, no handshakes, and no vaccines for the foreseeable future. The climate helps, of course, so we do not also suffer from SAD. But while living “in the now” (living “without a why”) with no thought for what the future might hold is a liberation of sorts, it is a bit like walking a highwire; balance is everything!

Slán agus beannacht!

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