KAMPALA – “A bad cough then set in. Soon my nose was running. I felt like my eyes were on fire.”
The lockdowns come like the roars of thunder. The lightning comes first. Then the thunder. Each time you feel a shock and sometimes you even tremble. You tell yourself that the next rolling thunder will find you prepared and leave you unshaken.
Except that when it comes you are unprepared. You shake and tremble.
The first lockdown announcement found me at a restaurant. The restaurant owner came to our table. We had made our orders but we had not yet been served.
“I am sorry. You have to leave. We are closing the restaurant immediately. We shall pack your food. My staff live far from town and they have to leave now,” the previously amiable restaurant owner told us. And that was it. We left. Doggy bags in hand.
Then the panic set in. Do I have enough fuel? Do I even need fuel? Where will I go when travel in private cars has been banned? Still as I drove home I stopped at a petrol station and filled up my car. It set me back some good hundreds of thousands because it is a massive double tank. I felt content because even if a fuel shortage hits, I will at least have fuel.
For the next three days I was grounded. I made a few calls to find out whether there was a clear way for me to get a permit to use my car. Everybody spoke gibberish. I called someone I thought could help and asked whether top leaders of political parties can request for permits to travel to their party headquarters and attend to urgent business. “It is being considered,” I was told.
This time I thought the announcement of the lockdown would not take me by surprise. After all I was a promoter of the second lockdown during my TV talk show. But when the announcement came even I was taken aback.
Our second born son was due to report to school but the school authorities had told parents to hold on until the presidential address on Covid-19.
Some of us even decided to hold onto the money we had set aside for school fees and for buying boarding school necessities. I’m happy I did that. Many parents who had already done massive shopping and even paid school fees are wishing they had not done so.
I know epidemics and how unforgiving they can be. I take every precaution as announced by the health authorities. But then one day I felt chest pain. A bad cough then set in. Soon my nose was running. I felt like my eyes were on fire. I felt feverish. These are the well-known symptoms of Covid-19!
But this isn’t the first time I have had these kind of symptoms. In mid-December 2019, I suffered the same symptoms when I travelled to Cape Town, South Africa. Almost all the members of my delegation contracted flu and cough. Some even had to abandon the programme midway and return home. When coronavirus hit the world in late December and early 2020, I recalled my ordeal in Cape Town and wondered whether it wasn’t Covid-19.
Anyway, with this renewed corona-like symptoms I decided to see my doctor. He told me not to step in his consultation room before getting tested for Covid-19. It was a Sunday. I went to a private testing facility frequented by international travellers.
The results turned out negative. Still I was given treatment for the ailments ravaging my body. I ordered my entire household to go for tests. Everybody else tested negative except our first born. The results confounded us. I had all the common symptoms of Covid-19 but tested negative. Our son who had no symptoms whatsoever tested positive!
He had to get medication and he had to quarantine himself at home. After 14 days he got tested again and this time he was clear of Covid-19. During his quarantine it fell on me to help him overcome the fear of the coronavirus and to believe that a positive test result doesn’t mean a death sentence.
The writer, Norbert Mao is a politician and Democratic Party President