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The World Will Overcome COVID-19, say Museveni and Modi

Wednesday, 15th April 2020

Vicious though COVID-19 is, with nearly two million global infections and about  sixty five thousand deaths, the top leaders of India and Uganda anticipate global victory over the pandemic. This was their shared view during a telephone discussion between the Prime Minister of India and the President of Uganda, who initiated the telephone call. The two leaders expressed solidarity with each other and discussed the efforts they had put into safeguarding their two peoples against the pandemic. In particular, they discussed the health and economic challenges arising out of the pandemic, comparing notes on how their two countries were dealing with them.

India and Uganda were among the countries which instituted an early lockdown in response to the scale of the spread of the virus. Both countries locked their borders, barring any travel into and out of the country. Prior to closing their airports, both countries had put in place stringent COVID-19 testing of airborne travellers. Thanks to this measure, they were able to identify, quarantine and treat those found with the virus.  This measure also enabled the sources of infection to be identified and followed up. Through this measure Uganda found out that all its COVID-19 cases were imported into the country by nationals as well as non-nationals.

Another vital step taken by both countries was the mounting of a relentless high profile COVID-19 awareness. In India, the Prime Minister himself led this campaign which consisted of addressing his country through all media channels. He rallied the country and her sons and daughters in the health sector, encouraging them to do their best for India. To build unity of purpose, Modi then rallied all people in India to applaud the health professionals in a five-minute salute of drums, plates, car-horns,saucepans sound, etc. Two weeks later he organised a special national prayer. All the 1.3 billion Indian people switched off their lights at 9 pm. So, for nine minutes at nine pm on 5th April, India prayed against COVID-19; asking for deliverance from the plague.

Similarly in Uganda, the high profile public awareness against COVID-19 was led by President Museveni himself. Starting at Cabinet, he made sure all Ministers were fully apprised of the disease and the challenge ahead. He called other top leaders for a special prayer at State House. To ensure that the message got through to the whole population, Museveni gave three media addresses in one week at the start of the campaign. He called for all media houses to devote daily time to warn the population of the danger; urging them to take all measures to fight it. Just like in India the Ministry of health, top health professionals and researchers were all put on red alert. The Minister of Health, in person, made a point of informing the country of the current status of infection on a daily basis.

These measures have paid off handsomely in both countries as shown by the rate of infections which are thankfully low. Given the challenge of demographics against the financial, infrastructural and human capacity resources in their respective health services, the stringent measures taken by the two leaders were strategic.

In their telephone discussion, Prime Minister Modi assured the Ugandan President of  total  Indian solidarity with Uganda. He also thanked the Ugandan President for the goodwill and care which the country extends to the Indian Diaspora. Both leaders shared the view that the world would soon prevail over the coronavirus. But leaving nothing to chance, the two leaders have each extended the lockdown of their countries to the first week of May.