The COVID 19 virus has inspired global panic. Hollywood movies have exploited the deep-seated fear we have that one day a disease could threaten humanity, and COVID-19 has the virulence to match some of these paranoid tales. People’s responses to this actual threat are based on paranoia than rational thought. There are young healthy people isolating themselves from everyone in fear of death. Stories of new deaths happening on the other side of the globe cause us to assume the grim reaper is outside our own doors.
What is the actual risk? And if we understand this, what is a reasonable and rational response as individuals, communities and as a nation?
It should be understood there are 2 things to consider. Current risk, and potential risk. At the time of writing this I have known people in self-imposed lockdown for weeks, but what is the actual risk they are hiding from? Let’s do some maths. There are currently around 780,000 known COVID19 cases worldwide. There are around 7,800,000,000 people worldwide. That’s only 0.01% of the world population known to have the disease, and in Uganda, that figure is almost certainly much lower than this.
Tragically we have seen 36,000 deaths from Coronavirus worldwide. It’s a big number, but a tiny percentage of the world’s population and the vast majority of these were old people - our demographic is of a very young population. And consider the number of deaths from much more common diseases, ones we are currently far more likely to encounter in Uganda. WHO reported an estimated 228 million cases, and 405,000 global deaths from malaria in 2018 alone, most of whom were children, most of which were in sub-Saharan Africa. Compare this to the 36,000 total deaths from Coronavirus worldwide.
So why the panic? Until Museveni effectively banned all vehicles on the road we were more likely to get run over or die in a car crash than contract the disease, let alone die from it. The concern is not the current threat, but the potential such a virulent disease may have to spread and for these numbers described to increase exponentially. A young person may have a negligible risk of becoming seriously ill from the disease, but passing it to a Jaja could be fatal. Moving between borders could take the disease into a new nation. It needs to be taken seriously.
In the UK the strategy is to slow the spread with lockdown measures such that deaths are minimized until a vaccine is found, and to reduce the strain on the health service so that it is not overwhelmed. The strategy makes sense in the UK. Coronavirus represents one of the most significant potential health threats the nation is currently facing.
But is Uganda correct in taking our cue from the west in this instance? Coronavirus is not the biggest threat facing our health service. Malaria, TB, HIV have not gone away. We have stopped people from being able to travel. What happens if a child gets sick with malaria today? Isn’t there a very real risk that the parents will not be able to get that child to treatment? There is a very real danger of these lockdown measures being a direct cause of death for a child in that situation. Add to this the huge impact on those already affected by poverty. How does a laborer who is paid daily feed his family if he is unable to get to work? In the UK no one will die from starvation due to their lockdown, and those who can’t work are still being guaranteed 80% of their income by the government. Clearly no such support is possible from the Ugandan government, and people do already die from poverty here. And God helps any mother who is expecting a new arrival soon.
The response considers the pandemic as the only factor to address and ignores all other current and potential threats. We need to be responsible as global citizens to control this disease. Sensible measures, of course, need to be taken; keep social distancing, stay home when you can, close places of worship, even schools, keep borders locked down, wash hands. But those measures that negatively impact our economy or access to health services, and which put the most vulnerable at the greatest risk are dangerous and should be reconsidered urgently.
COVID-19 is an ongoing pandemic of coronavirus disease, caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus. The outbreak started in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, in December 2019. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak to be a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on 30 January 2020 and recognised it as a pandemic on 11 March 2020. As of today 4 April 2020, more than 1,026,974 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in more than 190 countries and 200 territories, resulting in more than 53,975 deaths. More than 217,433 people have recovered.
As of today 15:30 pm, 4th April, 2020 United States of America has the highest number of confirmed cases ie 245,573 cases, Italy has the highest number of deaths ie 13,915 deaths and Chain has the highest number of recovered patients ie 76,741.
The virus is mainly spread during close contact and by small droplets produced when people cough, sneeze, or talk. These small droplets may be produced during breathing but the virus is not generally airborne. People may also catch COVID-19 by touching a contaminated surface and then their eyes, nose or mouth. It is most contagious when people are symptomatic, although spread may be possible before symptoms appear. The time between exposure and symptom onset is typically around five days, but may range from 2 to 14 days. Common symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Complications may include pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome. There is no known vaccine or specific antiviral treatment. Recommended preventive measures include hand washing, covering one's mouth when coughing, maintaining distance from other people, and monitoring and self-isolation for people who suspect they are infected.
Efforts to prevent the virus spreading include travel restrictions, quarantines, curfews, workplace hazard controls, event postponements and cancellations, and facility closures. These include national or regional quarantines throughout the world, various border closures or incoming passenger restrictions, screening at airports and train stations, and outgoing passenger travel bans. The pandemic has led to severe global social economic disruption, the postponement or cancellation of sporting, religious, and cultural events, and widespread fears of supply shortages resulting in panic buying. Schools and universities have closed either on a nationwide or local basis in more than 160 countries, affecting more than 1.5 billion students.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, getting anxious is an adaptive and healthy response to the perceived threat. The problem is when this anxiety gets out of control and this is what is currently happening in our country.
To you, our students, this is to share with you a few tips on how to deal with the anxiety and fear that comes due to such a pandemic.
1. Follow news from trusted sources;
Avoid social media channels that fuel your fears and get updates from reliable sources. Since anxiety and fear can build from too much media exposure, you have to try and limit it since some of this information may not be accurate and only triggers more worries. Since anxiety is contagious, break this by skipping some updates about the COVID-19 pandemic.
2. Focus on what is within your control
Anxiety overwhelms us when we try to focus on things that are beyond or out of our control.
We don't have control over when the partial lockdown will end or on market prices for basic commodities, but we have control over our ability to follow precautions and advice from the Ministry of Health. And now that you are home, you can keep away from crowded places to control the spread of the virus. Remember to always wash your hands with soap or use sanitizers.
3. Get enough rest or sleep.
By the time the University closed, most, or all of you were in a very busy period of the semester with lectures, assignments, and tests.
This is the time to rest. Research has shown that enough (good) sleep helps boost your immunity and thus preventing you from getting sickly. It also boosts your mood and thus preventing anxiety.
Much as we are encouraged to self or social distance, you can still do exercise in your compound or house. You can also do a solo run around your neighborhood. This helps to relax your mind and improves your cognitive abilities such as decision making and problem-solving among others. This also helps put the COVID-19 worries at bay for a while. The objective is to minimize the amount of time you spend preoccupied with the negative thoughts around the pandemic.
Try following the above 4 tips to calm your worries about this pandemic and continue practicing the WHO and Ministry of Health guidelines.
Remember to keep safe.
Maurice Osire Tukei
UNIVERSITY COUNSELOR & LECTURER
It is four days since the president's directive on the closer of all Universities, Schools and Tertiary institutions to reduce the fast spread of Corona virus. Uganda has today fallen a victim and is also counted among those countries affected with Corona virus. This was confirmed today by the Minister of Health (Jane Ruth Aceng).
The affected is a male Ugandan citizen 36 years of age who had traveled to Dubai for shopping on the 17th of March 2020. He traveled when he was well and on coming back, he had some symptoms of the virus ie: high fever and loss of appetite. The patient had no flue and cough but on suspecting him, a blood sample was picked from him and taken to the virus research institute where the sample tested positive with Corona virus.
This caused the call for another president's national press address which is to take place today the 22nd of March 2020 at 4pm. Stay posted for any other updates.
Uganda is advised to continue taking the following precautions to avoid the quick spread of the virus.
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