Well done, Uganda, for re-opening schools after 2 years of lockdowns

14Jan 2022
The Guardian
Well done, Uganda, for re-opening schools after 2 years of lockdowns

​​​​​​​NEIGHBOURING Uganda has in the past week been breathing fresh air after moving to reopen schools, following nationwide Covid-19 lockdowns that lasted nearly two years.

However, the country still has daunting challenges on its hands as it battles new waves of Omicron variant infections, as is the case in a number of other African countries.

Many parts of the world, especially the more developed ones with independent and reliable national data networks among hospitals and care homes, Africa has only a patchy capacity for such reporting – and generally feels disinclined to be entirely transparent.

The fact is that Uganda’s travails with inhibiting Covid-19 infections were nowhere near ending as yet, given the situation at the country’s numerous border crossing points especially with Kenya.

Truck drivers were being directed to take a test for infection even with having a certificate from Kenya or say Tanzania (as Malaba was an affected crossing point as well), and also pay Kshs30 for the test (close to 60,000/- here), in disregard of having an exit negative test certificate.

The cause of this mishap wasn’t being explained in thorough terms, but it can be figured out that officials fear that papers can be stamped for a bit of cash, whether routinely or exceptionally – if it is in just one country, one border post or it is a general habit.

More recent information was suggesting that the test (or re-testing) requirement had now been removed, and also the test cash demanded.

This means that trucks will now be moving to and fro in the usual manner, after clearing several kilometers of backlog.

That is precisely why lorry drivers and other people should seek to be vaccinated and carry with them digital certificates of vaccination, as mere tests don’t guard against being infected, which also implies starting to spread infection once one is infected.

But there is no East African Community-wide mandatory vaccination pass requirement as yet in place, as discussions so far have been focusing on testing, not vaccines.

Trouble is that too much vaccine hesitancy is still being experienced around the world, and often in countries with high numbers of infections and deaths during the spread of earlier variants of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The latest variant, Omicron, is credited with rapid infection rates but with relatively low hospitalisation and a scant death rate compared with the Delta variant.

What this implies is that vaccine hesitancy will be boosted by this opening, namely, that people prepare for mild or strong bouts of headache or chest pains, even fever and vomiting, but they know that it will take only a short whole and all will be well again.

That would essentially mean that EAC customs officials at territorial border points need to be ready for the tests and mutual recognition of certificates for a while to come.

The major explanation here is that it is unlikely that EAC partner states will move into mandatory vaccine passports (or passes) any time soon. So, all concerned ought to play ball – as expected.