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By Fred Wamanghe Mutibwa

Hearing ordeals from colleagues quarantined at Douglas Villa Hostel in Makerere-Kikoni days after they returned from both South Africa and Dubai, one can safely predict that Uganda is likely to have over 10,000 cases of Coronavirus in the next one week.

A friend came back from Dubai on March 18 and found business as usual at Entebbe International Airport. He went through the normal temperature check and filled the entry form before proceeding to his home.

On reading stories in the local dailies and on social media about the strange connection between the UAE business hub he recently returned from and Uganda’s first cases, he decided to call the toll free Health Ministry numbers that had been shared widely. Unfortunately, all his attempts to call the numbers – and his quest for a quick response – were futile as nobody picked.

Later, a colleague gave his number to the Ministry, but it took hours for an official to call my friend. The call, from a lady, came through yesterday at about 2am. The official assured him he would be picked by health experts from his home. No official or expert had called to pick him by 2pm. This prompted him to remind the lady at the Ministry who urged him to be patient. With no response coming through an hour later, he decided to take himself to Mulago Hospital for, hopefully, a checkup.

At Mulago National Referral Hospital, he found two desks with two gentlemen, one with a protective mask and another without, attending to- and freely interacting with- patients.

A baby that has just been confirmed Covid-19 positive – See: CORONAVIRUS: 8-MONTH-OLD BABY, CHINESE AMONG FIVE NEW CONFIRMED CASES) – and its mother were among those waiting to be attended to. Unfortunately, all those that got into contact with the duo were exposed to the deadly virus since neither protective gear nor other safety measures had been put in place to prevent the spread of the respiratory disease.

After waiting for close to four hours with no health officer taking any tests or samples from the returnees, a Douglas Villa Coaster parked at Mulago and 33 of them were packed into the vehicle and driven to the hostel for quarantine.  A Toyota Noah carried nine others, mostly ladies, and delivered them to the same destination where they are being kept now.

At Douglas Villa, they are being housed in rooms vacated by students after President Yoweri Museveni shut down all education institutions last week. But the students’ clothes, TV sets, suitcases, books, shoes and other personal belongings are still the rooms. The quarantined have been kept at one floor where they are all sharing a single bathroom and the same toilets.

There are no samples or tests carried out on the quarantined up to now. Apparently, even if only one of these people was infected, the way they were transported – no protective equipment, no social distancing – exposes all of them to a 90 per cent risk of contracting the deadly virus, with the 10 per cent being the luck factor.

Where are the basic safety measures as advised by World Health Organization? Is Uganda’s Ministry of Health really ready to combat this pandemic or should Ugandans start digging thousands of graves as Museveni has warned in his addresses?

The Writer is the Deputy Chief Administrative Officer at the Forum for Democratic Change

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