By Prof Oweyegha Afunaduula
During his 13th Televised Speech on Covid-19, the president announced a new measure in addition to the one’s he earlier announced and this was the mandatory wearing of face masks to whoever was going to the public. On hearing this, police announced that every Ugandan found in public not wearing a face mask will be arrested.
The disease might end up pushing many Ugandans below the poverty line far more than has been the case over the last two decades Reason?
The requirement that every Ugandan puts on a mask against Covid 19, which is a good idea. What is impoverishing is that the recommended high quality masks are costing between 15,000/- and 20,000/- each.
Few can afford these masks, yet masks of poorer quality cannot effectively protect anyone. One alternative is to keep poor Ugandans more or less in prisons called homes without allowing them to move until a cure or vaccine for Covid 19 is found.
Another alternative is to treat Covid 19 like Malaria, Tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS so that instead of giving Ugandans free medicines, which are not there yet, Government gives us free masks of the recommended type. Why not?
Billions of shillings have been collected locally or nationally to fight Covid 19. Many more millions of dollars have been got from external sources including the 1 trillion few days ago from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). It is a big resource pool we now have.
Besides, Parliament approved vast amounts of money for various institutions, including itself to fight Covid 19.
With correct thinking, given that we are not spending any money on medicines and vaccines against Covid 19, the only obvious direct attack on the disease that government can spend money on in service of Ugandans is the masks way because it has the capacity to provide free mosquito nets to Ugandans, so masks couldn’t be a big issue.
Many people can afford soap and water to fight Covid 19 but not those expensive masks that the president recommended. Indeed any more external assistance to Uganda in respect of Covid 19 must focus on joining hands with Government to avail those recommended masks to Ugandans. This is critical if Government is to ensure that the country is not under Covid 19 quarantine well into the future. What do you think?
Prof Oweyegha Afunaduula is a retired Makerere University lecturer, an environmentalist and a social commentator.
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