COVID-19: Managing the transition from lockdown 

William Mugeni. File photo.

By James William Mugeni

From the robust economies to weak economies, we all have suffered with COVID-19. All countries that have the virus are busy monitoring total cases, active, deceased, recovered and new cases.

Countries are talking of flattening the curve; meaning reducing the number of new infections to zero and dealing with only the active.

Based on new infections or not having new infections, countries are deciding to open up. We have powerful statements from, for example, USA. People will die, but we can’t allow the economy to die. Balance death with the economy. Unlock the country so that people can go to work.

According to Worldometer, as of Sunday 17 May 2020, USA has 1,515,302 total cases, 90,332 deceased, 340,609 recovered. USA seems still in the deeper end of the pandemic. The disease is ravaging through populations like a bush fire. USA is still recording over 25,000 fresh cases daily and over 2000 death every day.

Despite this grim picture, the pressure for USA to unlock is so big that some states are even protesting the lockdown. Over 2 million people are now unemployed and the threat to have more becoming jobless is real. Even health facilities especially health for-profit hospitals are laying off staff.

Uganda with possibly 227 total cases, 32 active cases, zero deceased and 65 recovered has had three lockdowns. The first was for 14 days. This was followed by 21 and 14 days, respectively. I am sure Uganda that has witnessed no death must even have more pressure to open businesses. Sure, Uganda should unlock soon, however, there are a few things Uganda must consider as we transition to normalcy.

1. COVID-19 disintegrated the world so much that every country must run its own systems. The healthcare in Uganda has a historical base that gets Uganda always performing well despite gaps. So far so good, but we took lessons as an example. Was Uganda’s system watertight so as not to register death? And if so, can we sustain this system even as we go to normal business?

2. We have to know that the epicenter of COVID-19 changes anytime, especially when countries with big economies that form trade partnership with Uganda still have active cases. It was in ASIA, then Europe and now in America are we ready for perhaps the epicenter coming to Africa through trade?

3. Transition is being pushed by testing the state where I am planning to use what they call ‘test Iowa’ where all people in the service sector are being targeted for testing in all places of work and systems designed to handle the positives. Can we have ‘test Uganda’ or we shall maintain our basic hand and respiratory hygiene?

4. What lessons have we carried from the lockdown that should guide the activities of normalcy? There have been very many recent introductions in the healthcare system of the country, the forces, public administration structures that have brought in a lot of bureaucracies that don’t seem to understand how health systems work.

The Arua – Nurse Saga is an example where the bureaucratic system is criminalizing an otherwise act of a nurse called ability to use initiative. The Nurse is innocent, but it is a clash of systems turning her into a victim in her line of duty. I can always explain this if there is anyone who wants to understand this using my HR knowledge.

5. How do we use Uganda’s story to drive opinion and inform the world? It hurts so much, especially for us in the diaspora we totally lack professional reference back home. Whereas we have excellent work, but most of the time it stands out as President Museveni’s work.

Let us learn as a country that public administration is multi-disciplinary and learn to subscribe to all systems. You don’t lamp expertise in one place. For us to achieve what we have in COVID-19, the following were pillars of our action.

We had community participation and involvement; we had inter sectorial collaboration coming in to support health; we had appropriate technology and finally political will, and these are the synergies that form Primary Healthcare foundation.

Remember, Uganda has a pedigree in Primary Healthcare and was always an example to the rest of the world. You kill it if you turn it into a one man show each person in the COVID-19 address calls on President Museveni. This is wrong, the President is a political will let us have health care stand out and give tribute to other pillars.

6. For heaven’s sake, there were testing kits developed in Makerere during this period. There was somebody from Busoga with a sanitizer. There is a youthful man who was arrested for expressing his science mind, so where are our scientists? Why do we have to kill our own science? Some of us perhaps have survived in the diaspora using what we call medical anthropology all our African communities had something local to cover us in the COVID-19 period.

I visited a Uganda household that gave me EKIGAGI. Who knows what this could be if we suppress diverse ideas? What about us in the diaspora who have sent thousands of dollars home to support our relatives and other efforts during the lockdown?

I can go on and on with this write up. There is shear lack of space for health workers’ contributions in Uganda; is it Doctor Ruth Aceng and Doctor Diana Atwine alone with their COVID-19 assembled teams?

The COVID-19 period has connected the world just by one thing a virus. We should listen to everyone the virus has killed many because the world didn’t want to listen to the doctor who saw it start poor doctor may he rest in peace.

I have suffered the brunt of writing personally as a clinical officer. My professional colleagues regard me as an outcast for always having my firm opinion in matters of my country. We can only be better if we generate ideas that makes the world a better place to live in.

The author is a Medical Clinical Officer/Certified Public Manager based in the United States.


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