It is a sin to travel sick in these corona times

Sunday March 22 2020


By Esther Oluka

Recently, I was seated inside a taxi that was heading to Seeta, a Kampala suburb.
Midway the journey, one of the male passengers began coughing. Goodness gracious me, you should have seen how others suddenly became terrified. One female passenger quickly reached inside her bag and picked a white handkerchief and placed it right next to her small nose.
Then, I noticed something rather peculiar. Those who sat next to the coughing man began pushing themselves away from him.

Later, I began to understand why these people behaved like this. I understood their terror and fear. With the ongoing sensitisation on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), a global pandemic that is petrifying the world, these passengers definitely had to be scared.

The common signs of the disease mostly include cough, flu, fever and shortness of breath.
So I bet when that man coughed, the other passengers must have suspected it was probably coronavirus, yet, it was not. I personally suspect it was either the ordinary cough or he suddenly choked on his saliva. And so, that was the highlight of that journey.

Then, just earlier this week, I sat in another taxi where four passengers were wearing facemasks. I was not wearing one and obviously felt like the odd person out.

From time to time, during the journey, two of these passengers kept throwing strange glances towards my direction like as if something was wrong with me. Then, my neighbour on the left (he was wearing a mask) did something uncanny. The dude changed a seat.

He moved to another seat, one, that was further away from me. Jeez!


But do you blame him? I don’t. Fear of getting infected is driving us all nuts and I have witnessed the extreme tension whenever I use public means.

The tension is even more extreme when the radio inside the taxi is playing and there are all these announcements being made on coronavirus. Now, you make a mistake by either coughing or sneezing when a radio announcement on coronavirus is being made, then, you my friend will see hell. The way people will look at you! Your actions will obviously seem a criminal offence.

Once, a conductor was heard joking that if any passenger began coughing or sneezing, he would chase him or her out of the taxi. Imagine!

Uncomfortable train ride
Sometimes, after work, I prefer using the train to get back home. During evening hours, it sets off from Kampala railway station at 7.50pm. The train makes stops at Nakawa, Kireka, and Bweyogerere before eventually making the final stop at Namanve, outside the city.

I usually get off from Bweyogerere stage before finally walking the rest of the journey home.

So, two weeks back, I opted to use the train after working hours. It was packed to infinity. I had no choice but stand after all the seats got filled up.

As the train began moving, passengers got chatty and the topic of discussion was… (you guessed it) coronavirus.

The way people talked like experts, coronavirus this, coronavirus that…

And I somehow realised how certain people are spreading false information on the coronavirus.
Imagine one passenger in his chitty chatty mood told others that one of the ways of avoiding getting infected is by bathing using detergent.

Utter nonsense! Where did he get this piece of information from? And the way some of the passengers were nodding to whatever he said really worried me. “Are some people that ignorant about the facts of coronavirus,” I wondered.

He even scared people more by saying everything that is happening is a sign that the world is coming to an end.

“It is the end of the world, people,” he said, adding, “Repent! Repent! Repent!”

By the time I came out of that train, I was traumatised. I have not set foot again on it ever since that day. God bless us.

Before I forget, my sympathies to anyone whose trip abroad has been affected due to the pandemic. These are people who were supposed to attend conferences, go for further studies, seek further medical attention, and visit loved ones, among other obligations.

But they are here, still stuck with us. Flights have been cancelled, certain countries have stopped issuing visas, and, so forth. But worry not, we shall overcome, someday.

Travel precautions

In the wake of coronavirus outbreak, many countries have set tight guidelines for those that want to travel but above all, advised them not to move if it is not essential.

According to the Uganda Tourism Board, all tour operators, travel agencies, and accommodation facilities provide handwashing facilities with soap at their premises and on-board travel vehicles and vessels.

To improve preparedness as a sector, tour operators, agencies and accommodation facilities are encouraged to maintain a stock of recommended masks (N95) for their clients.