Don’t joke with COVID. It’s real

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Robby Muhumuza getting a COVID test
Robby Muhumuza getting a COVID test

(NOTE: On November 25, 2020, the Ugandan Ministry of Health confirmed 11,767 cases of COVID-19 and 106 deaths. This is the story of one of the infected persons who survived.)

By Robby Muhumuza

UCU Senior Teaching Fellow Robby Muhumuza
UCU Senior Teaching Fellow Robby Muhumuza

“Do you know someone who knows someone who knows someone who has Corona?”

The above refrain trending on social media a few months ago sounded funny. My family members and I laughed at it. That laugh now has dried off my lips.

In November 2020, I know scores of people who have been infected by COVID-19. I have a list of those who recently died of COVID-19. Others are on ventilators in critical condition. My wife and I recently became part of the COVID-19 statistics when both of us tested positive for the corona virus.

We didn’t have any of the classic symptoms. Our body temperatures were normal. No coughs, no headaches but slight sore throats. We were prompted to test because we had been in close contact with people who tested positive for COVID-19. There are many places for testing in Kampala with charges ranging from UGX 200,000 to 350,000 UGX ($54 to $94). We opted for Makerere University Hospital, where we were charged UGX 200,000 and got our results the following day.

As soon as the medical officer at Makerere University Hospital saw “Positive “ on our results slips, she adjusted her mask more firmly on her face and told us to keep a minimum of 2 meters (6 feet) from her.

“Mulago Hospital is full. Entebbe Grade B also is full,” she said. “The only place we can have you admitted for 14 days is at the temporary medical facility recently set up at Namboole Stadium.”

“What are the facilities available at Namboole?” I asked.

“Not much really,” she confessed. “We mostly have medical staff who will monitor you regularly and give you treatment if you need it. You will not be allowed any visitors. Your family can bring you stuff but they will have to leave it at the gate. But if you have a place where you can self-isolate, here is a prescription. Go buy the drugs from a pharmacy and take another test after 10 days.”

The prescription consisted of: Azithromycin (antibiotic mostly to treat chest infections), 500 mg (1 tablet per day for 6 days); Zinc 20 mg (1 tablet per day for 5 days); Vitamin C 500 mg (1 tablet twice a day for 5 days).

When I checked with a senior doctor friend of mine, he gave a similar prescription and then added the following: “Don’t be scared. Take a balanced diet. Have enough sleep. Do exercises every day. Drink plenty of water. Sit in the morning sun 15-20 minutes per day.”

After buying the prescriptions, my wife and I went into isolation for the next 10 days.

As we shared our condition with friends via WhatsApp and phone calls, we received more advice on how to reinforce our immunity. We were encouraged to take lots of green tea boiled with fresh-pounded garlic, ginger, lemon or lime and some honey added. We shared with our pastor and some friends for prayers.

Concerned that we could have infected some of our closest contacts, we sent our children, grandchildren, driver and workers at our home for COVID-19 tests. Thanks be to God, they all tested negative.

Full-fledged COVID-19 usually attacks and weakens the lungs. That’s why critically ill COVID-19 patients with breathing difficulties need ventilators (now in short supply in Ugandan hospitals). It’s therefore necessary to monitor the oxygen intake in the blood of COVID-19 patients so that medical personnel can provide the necessary intervention in time. We were advised to buy a battery-operated, hand-held oximeter for measuring the pulse and the amount of oxygen in the blood. We sent for one from First Pharmacy at 95,000 UGX (about $25). My wife and I followed the recommended regimen religiously to the dot. Thanks be to God that we had not developed any serious symptoms of COVID-19.

We eagerly counted each day looking forward to the 10th day to carry out another COVID-19 test. Day 10 came and the swab was taken from our nostrils. I have taken many tests and exams in my life. Waiting for results of a COVID-19 test is nerve-wrecking.

The following day, the email from the Ministry of Health Uganda Virus Research Institute Lab Manager came on my phone. My fingers were shaking and sweating as I opened the email. “ NEGATIVE” was stamped in green on the result slip for both my wife and me. We shouted in excitement and hugged each other. It was as if a death sentence had been lifted from our necks.

We wondered if the first test was accurate.  We wondered about the treatment as we had no symptoms. We wondered if the expense was worth it.  At that, we are grateful as we pray for the families and friends around us who are not so fortunate.

The list of names of people dying of COVID19 in Uganda is increasingly being shared in hushed tones on phones and in-boxes of WhatsApp messages. A number of friends are in-boxing me, telling me that they tested positive for COVID-19, and they are quietly taking medication.  Others are telling me about relatives and neighbors who recently died of COVID-19, but nobody wants to talk about it openly because of the fear of stigma.

CONCLUSION:  COVID19 is real. We are at the stage where there are many infected people in the community busy transmitting it. Be careful. Avoid mingling in crowds. Go out only if you must. When you are with others who are not your family members, wear a mask, keep a social distance of around 2 meters apart, and wash your hands frequently with water and soap. If you feel symptoms of COVID-19 or one of the people you have been in close contact tests positive, go for a COVID-19 test. If you test positive, that’s not a death sentence. Follow the treatment regimen. You will thank me later.


Robby Muhumuza is a Senior Teaching Fellow in the Uganda Christian University Faculty of Journalism, Media and Communication.


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