Christmas, campaigns, coronavirus — three Cs that could be deadly together

Sunday November 29 2020
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Bernard Tabaire


Christmas is a few weeks away. It is arguably the one time in the year that much of Uganda goes on a massive chill and celebrate mission. 
The schools are closed. Offices are closed or are operating in slow motion. Businesses are the same except those that deal in Christmas-related stuff. 
Add the fact that New Year’s is always a week away. Why not have a big shindig — with the larger family, mostly in some village somewhere to be sure the grandpas and grandmas and grand aunties are not left out.

This year, however, things are tricky. A key issue is whether to travel to the village in the first place. 
The village is where mostly the old folk live. With everything we have heard about Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, those descending on the kyaalo from places like Kampala could be delivering bread and meat, but also Covid-19.
See, anecdotally, most of those piling into buses, taxis, and “my cars” heading to the get-togethers in the village will be the younger people. 
People who have better chances of catching Covid-19 and surviving without much hustle. 

A number will even have the disease, but without showing any symptoms. They will tell themselves they are fine. Then they will have a blast. Yet, they are delivering trouble.
The general election campaigns now underway add a hot mix to the milieu. From Arua to Fort Portal, we have seen crowds mob their candidates and each other without a care. They are taken in by the moment.

In Arua, one candidate’s supporters even had an all-night outdoor party a couple of weeks ago. Zero physical distancing. Zero face masks. Probably even zero sanitising.
In Fort Portal last week, young people jammed about 10km of a highway and mixed freely, mask-less. 
They had to show support for their candidate, or just be present to see things for themselves, damn the consequences.

In many towns in Uganda, very few people are wearing masks on any day. These are the people who will be trooping to the villages in their numbers.
Some will tell themselves that they will observe the SOPs while at home, especially keeping a healthy physical distance from the old relatives.  The (lived) reality is that this will happen on the first two days. Thereafter, a mix of booze and “urban-rural” excitement will upend those plans. The SOPs will be forgotten.
People will have to answer the question: to travel or not to travel to the village this Christmas holiday? Talk of a life-or-death decision.

We can’t do away with electoral campaigns, although they could have been postponed to a time until after the world had a handle on the pandemic. 
Coronavirus, well it is still very much alive and causing mayhem. Christmas, this one can never be postponed, I suppose.
Which leaves matters in our (un)sanitised hands (and heads).
Oh, should you decide to not go to the village and stay in Kampala or Entebbe or Mbale, don’t entertain visitors in your home. 
The best time to be openly selfish is now. Enjoy your feast all by yourself and immediate members of the household.
Otherwise, you don’t want to go to the village, party hard, and then return to that same village two or three weeks later to bury your octogenarian aunt because she could not survive a Covid-19 attack that you helped unleash.


Mr Tabaire is a media trainer and commentator on public affairs based in Kampala.