When an Ebola outbreak swept across central Uganda in late September, government officials were willing to do anything to contain the virus, except take one crucial step: impose a lockdown.
This was radically different from their response during the onset of Covid, when Uganda introduced some of the most restrictive lockdowns in Africa by closing borders, banning public transport and closing schools for two years – one of the longest in the world.
Officials in Uganda, a landlocked East African country, now concede that they were reluctant to impose similar restrictions in the recent Ebola outbreak because of continued anger over strict Covid measures. They worried that another drastic response to the pandemic could spark protests, hit a strained economy and alienate an exhausted population.
The initial decision not to quantify the epicenter of the Ebola outbreak is now haunting Uganda. The disease has spread to nine districts, including the capital, Kampala. The World Health Organization has reported 142 confirmed cases and 55 deaths.
The outbreak, the country’s deadliest in more than 20 years, has abated considerably and no new Ebola infections have been reported recently. But those affected wonder if all the pain could have been avoided.
Among those who died was 12-year-old Ciberanda Isaiah Victor, whose relatives gathered one afternoon for a memorial service in their village of Nakaziba.
The family lived in Kampala, and the boy’s father, Sekiranda Farid, said his son caught the virus from a neighbor’s son who came from Kasanda, one of the districts that was the epicenter of the outbreak. “I miss you, my boy,” Farid said. “It was so bright, so dreamy.”
On 15 October, nearly a month after the first case was reported, President Yoweri Museveni declared a curfew and restricted movement in and out of Mubindi and Kasanda, two areas where the outbreak is concentrated. By then, the virus had spread to the capital.
“They were really adamant about no more lockdowns because they knew there was no public trust,” said a Western official. But the official said that with the virus spreading in Kampala, “they felt pressure to do it”.
Multiple corruption cases related to the coronavirus pandemic have also eroded citizens’ trust.
Days after Fred lost one of his four children to Ebola, his wife, Nako Martha, succumbed to the virus. “Ebola could have wiped us all out,” she said, with tears in her eyes as she walked around her son’s grave. “But we survived and we are still hopeful.”
Written by: ABDI LATIF DAHIR
BBC-NEWS-SRC: http://www.nytsyn.com/subscribe/stories/6494467, import date: 2022-12-14 23:20:09
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