Upon confirmation of Covid-19 as a pandemic in March by the World Health Organisation (WHO), countries embarked on different approaches to combat the virus.
This pandemic has happened at a time when the international system is “anarchical.” This has forced individual countries to subscribe to the Darwinian evolutionary theory of “survival for the fittest.”
Different governments have in response issued drastic measures such as lockdown, suspended of the International Health Regulations 2005, and closed borders due to public pressure. Public pressure is largely attributed to fear of Covid-19 pandemic because little is known about the virus.
Hans J. Morgenthau defines National morale in his book ‘Politics Among Nations’ as a determination with which a nation supports the policies of its government. For Delbert C. Miller, national morale is defined as the degree of confidence held by all people in the ability of the nation to cope with the future.
Ugandans have exhibited the highest level confidence in government to cope with the pandemic by heeding to the preventive guidelines given by Ministry of Health, which to an extent explains and why we have not registered many community cases around the country.
Besides, the President also announced other drastic measures such as closing Entebbe Airport on March 22 and series of lockdown, at the expense of the economy. Still Ugandans supported government. By the time of announcing the easing of the lockdown by the government on May 14, Uganda had confirmed 139 (73 Ugandans, 35 Kenyans, 19 Tanzanians, 3 Burundians, 2 Chinese, 1 Canadian, 1 Indian, 1 Congolese, 1 Rwandese and 3 Eritreans).
Of the 139,79 were truck drivers, 49 were cases of people who returned from abroad and five are contacts of the confirmed cases, 11 are sporadic cases identified and confirmed from several districts, including Masaka, Hoima, Adjumani, Iganga, Kyotera, Masindi, Mutukula and Rakai.
The low figures of Covid-19 cases are not by chance; it is attributed Ugandans, who have exhibited the highest level of national morale. Ugandans have helped in limiting community infections through observing Ministry of Health guidelines of washing hands, keep social distancing (#Tonsemberera), etc.
However, with the easing of the lockdown, I am worried that some of us will forget the guidelines and Standard Operating Procedures. If this happens, we shall jump from a frying pan to fire proper just like it happened in San Francisco over a century ago during the Spanish Flu outbreak.
In 1918-1919, when San Francisco was faced with the lethal Spanish flu, officials introduced prevention measures similar to the one introduced by the government to fight Covid-19.
Restrictions like ban on public gatherings and the compulsory wearing of masks led to an improvement in the number of infections and death from other diseases. However, with encouragement by low numbers indicating that the spread had slowed down, officials eased the preventive measures after weeks.
After the lifting, the disease rebounded causing a second and longer outbreak. The second wave registered more cases and more deaths than the first one. They registered more than 45,000 cases of the flu and 3,000 deaths. These figures were more than double what they had reported at the end of the first lockdown.
I am not being pessimistic, but rather conscious of the extent of the problem if we do not maintain our national morale. Easing the lockdown has come with guidelines and Standard Operation Procedures, which we must adhere to, if we are to avoid what happened to San Francisco.
Jacob Ampeire is the public relations officer
Ministry of Health, Uganda