KAMPALA – The new wave of infections after those of the returnees from UAE, UK, US and other places is going to most likely be within the East African community region. Uganda moved quickly to suspend groupings, step-up awareness and ban public transport. This ability to limit movements could have perhaps helped shove-off the likely growth in Covid19 cases. If the ban remains in effect, Uganda is likely to register few Covid19 cases except those still under quarantine. Rwanda currently has 102 cases and has quickly moved to effectively lock-down and recently extended its lock-down period by an additional 15 days. On the other hand, Kenya that has the highest Covid19 cases in the region remains open so is Tanzania that has so far registered only 20 cases. South Sudan and Burundi all have cases so is the neighboring Congo and all remain open.
While speaking last week, Uganda’s Minister of Education hinted that – should the situation stabilize, schools in Uganda might open at the end of this month – which means public transport will resume and perhaps all other gatherings. I think Uganda should not celebrate yet, as the next wave new infections is likely to come from within the region. As cases Covid19 cases grow in Kenya, there’s a strong possibility that the country will move to effective lock-down. This might cause panic and possible movement of people to Uganda and Tanzania using some of the many porous borders. This could also be the situation in Rwanda and DRC, and this might spark a wave of new infections that the region might not be able to deal with – given the scale and spread.
The East African secretariat therefore needs to work on a harmonized approach across its member states considering that the countries in the bloc are trading partners. Goods and cargo will be moving across the boarders and this could be a potential avenue to move infections across countries.
Covid19’s 14 days incubation period presents even more challenges as those infected can not easily be detected at the boarder especially those that will continue to move cargo. Unless the government quarantines every person moving on cargo trucks at the boarder for 14 days before crossing or mandates testing of everyone prior to crossing the border, we could be headed for the next wave of infections that might be destabilizing to region.
Nathan Were is the President of The Nathan and Christine Were Foundation: A charity with causes in Education, Health and Social Welfare of the poor.