KAMPALA – “If you remain vigilant and adhere to the guidelines provided by the ministry of health such as washing your hands regularly with soap and water; not touching your face, sanitizing, not touching surfaces, not shaking hands, correctly wearing a face mask, staying home once you develop flu-like symptoms, regularly cleaning surfaces at your home and sneezing into a tissue e.t.c) you will most likely survive catching the Coronavirus. If for any reason you get into contact with an infected person and develop Covid-19 symptoms, you will need to run to the nearest health facility to have it managed”.
This is most likely to be the message that President is going to emphasize post the 21-day lock-down and what the government will continue to drum up over the next couple of days as one of the strategies to reduce the spread of the virus and keep people safe.
While the government has used the last couple of days to take charge of the situation and manage further spread by instituting mandatory lock-down, the next phase of the virus management is most likely going to be in our hands and will test our day to day behaviors. Everyone will need to strictly follow the guideline provided by the ministry of health to stay safe and survive.
After 21 days of the current lock-down, the President will provide further guidance on next steps. Here is my 10-point prediction on how the President will most likely guide.
1. What next after 21 days? With the challenges that have surrounded food distribution to the needy and vulnerable communities, it unlikely that the 21-day lock-down will be extended. The assumption was that vulnerable people under-lockdown would receive food and continue to stay home, but this has remained challenging. So, my prediction is that after 21 days, the President will open-up to let people move but very selectively and consciously.
2. Curfew: To avoid the risk of people congregating at bars and other social and entertainment places, the curfew will not be lifted. There’s a possibility that even with all the measures the state has put in place, there might be cases from the neighboring countries that will slip through and letting people congregate especially at night could expose many to the risk of spreading the virus. Therefore, businesses such as bars, night clubs e.t.c may wait a little longer before they start to operate as this curfew may stay in effect for a couple of days or even weeks.
3. Non-essential services: These are likely to open but under very strict guidelines – fewer people, hand-washing facilities, and most likely they will be forced to close by 5 pm. Markets selling non-essential items are likely to be re-organized to minimize congestion and further spread of the virus. Shopping malls will most likely need to screen everyone on entry and provide hand-wash facilities at all entry points to the mall.
4. Face masks: The president is likely to make the wearing of face masks compulsory for everyone coming into the city using whatever means of transport. W.H.O has indicated that wearing a face mask correctly and consistently can reduce your risk of catching the virus.
5. Public transport: With essential businesses open, public transport will have to be restored. There’s a very high chance that this too will be restricted. Forexample, movements until 7pm only and each commuter taxi or coaster to carry anywhere between 50-75% of its normal passenger capacity. All taxi parks and/or taxi owners will have to invest in handwash facilities and travelers will have to wear a face mask or get fined by the authorities.
6. Schools, Churches: These will take a little longer to open as they could be sources of high infection rates. Most likely education and prayers will continue online. He might keep these closed for a period not less than 30-60 days after the 21-day lockdown.
7. Private vehicles: These will be allowed to move, and the President is most likely to restrict the occupants to a maximum of three people. It will almost be an offense to carry more people in your private car. The occupants too must wear a face mask.
8. Political rallies and other forms of gathering: These will remain banned indefinitely as they congregate people and could further increase the spread of the virus. This too will have implications on the next elections and other planned political activities.
9. Boda-Bodas: With crime rate likely to increase, Boda Boda movements will be allowed to move only until 6-7pm. This will also help enforce the curfew and other safety measures. No boda boda will be allowed to carry anyone without a face mask. Bodas will be restricted to carrying only one passenger.
10. Compliance: The President is likely to open gradually and could withdraw some measures if the public does not comply. Lack of compliance could result into more stringent measures.
All measures predicted here will also change from time to time depending on infection rates in-country, situation in neighboring countries and how Ugandans comply. These are only predictions and DO NOT in any way constitute the decisions of the President.
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.