President Yoweri Museveni is expected to address the nation today Sunday 19, at 8pm, according to his Senior Press Secretary Don Wanyama.
This will be the president’s fifth address aimed at informing the country on the government’s efforts to control the spread of the deadly COVID-19 disease.
The president’s COVID-19 addresses have become a must-listen to activity, considering the economic and social and in fact personal implications they have on every Ugandan more so in terms of restrictions on movement but also as a pointer to how we make decisions for the immediate and near future.
It is therefore paramount to have a forecast on the issues that could make it to the president’s speech to have perspective.
Since the president’s last COVID-19 update five days ago, Tuesday April 14, in which he declared a 21-day extension of the lockdown measures, a few things have happened.
Truck drivers, the new virus hot spot
Truck drivers are likely to feature very prominently in the President’s address this evening. This is because since his April 14, address, three truck drivers have tested positive to the Coronavirus. One is a Ugandan, the second a Tanzanian and the third a Kenyan. But according to the ministry of health, the non-Ugandans are not included in the national tally, which means that the total number of infections has increased by just two, to 56 from 54 since the President’s address on Tuesday.
Since Museveni’s last address, only one person, who is not a truck driver, has tested positive, according to Health Minister Dr, Jane Ruth Aceng.
The Ugandan truck driver is a 38-year old resident of Tororo in Eastern Uganda, who tested positive at Malaba border as he was entering the country from Kenya.
The second truck driver to test positive is a 34-year old Tanzanian who tested positive at Mutukula border. Uganda’s surveillance team successfully traced him at Karuma bridge at night, on his way to the Dr. Congo through Vura. The ministry of health says the Tanzania’s truck driver will be returned to his country for treatment.
The news is a mixed bag of optimism and caution. The good news is that thanks to vigilance by the surveillance team, more tests have been done over the past few days, as indicated by the fact that truck drivers are now being tested and some of those who are infected are identified.
As Minister Aceng has revealed, the government has procured two mobile PCR machines and they will be deployed at congested border points to speed up testing of truck drivers.
The bad news is that the Kenyan driver who tested positive is still missing. The fact that someone who has tested positive remains elusive and out there in the community, is likely to unnerve the president.
Judging by his sensitiveness to the COVID-19 disease and its potential rate of spread, this one case dissipates any hopes an early easing of restrictions.
Hungry may be asked to hold on
Although most Ugandans have continued to observe the painful lock-down measures, voices and signs have been increasing to the effect that people can no longer stay indoors due to hunger and perhaps in an effort to salvage their businesses.
Local leaders in many parts of Wakiso have reported attacks from their residents who are blaming them for the delayed distribution of relief food by the government. But members of the government task force undertaking food distribution have sent assurances that there is enough safe food in the government stores in Namanve, which means that it is only a matter of efficiency rather that inadequate supply that may need to be addressed.
The police also dispersed traders in Kampala who were trying to reopen shops.
And some motorists, using fake COVID-19 stickers have hit the roads in recent days which prompted police to mount an operation in which many of the stickers have been removed.
In brief, the preview of the president’s address is likely to focus on enforcing the lockdown rather than relaxing it. The rapid increase in Coronavirus cases in neighbouring Kenya and Tanzania, compared to Uganda, in recent days, largely arising from lax steps by authorities, greatly vindicates Museveni’s use-a-hammer-to-kill-a-fly strategy.
As he has said before, it is safer to make mistakes on the cautious side than allowing the virus overwhelm you.
So, in conclusion, the president is like to focus on two or three things;
1- A focus on tightening measures especially surrounding testing and surveillance of truck drivers and on enforcement of the lock-down measures. And
2 – A focus on improving the efficiency in the distribution of food to ensure that more vulnerable people are covered.
3 – Role of regional cooperation in fighting COVID.