Covid-19 Impact Series (IV): Worldview on Coronavirus
Meet Individuals from Around the World-Uganda and Australia
As Covid-19 continues to rage on globally, people in different countries face unique challenges in their daily lives during a global pandemic. The fourth part of our Covid-19 Impact Series is taking you to Australia and Uganda, two countries far apart, but united in their fight against the spread of the novel Coronavirus.
Meet Robert, a middle-aged teacher and father of three from Australia and Victoria, a young woman from rural Uganda. Today, they are sharing with us their views, but also the fears and hopes they were experiencing during the lock-down in their countries.
SOGH: Can you describe the situation in your country?
Robert: We are in a good position. Small population, large amount of space with ocean surrounding us. However, despite our economy being strong before the pandemic, our country relies on tourism. The lockdown and closing of our borders have been devastating on the jobs of those in hospitality, travel, retail and universities. We are officially in a recession now and it will take decades to recover to where we were as an economy.
Victoria: People here fear for themselves and their families. They worry how they will survive this period financially. Some worry that their businesses may collapse and others wonder when school will start. Some are also worried about their jobs. Generally, people are panicky and worried.
SOGH: How do you feel about the situation? How are you faring?
Robert: We are faring well in Australia. We became anxious when witnessing the events in USA, New York and we got to a point where we avoided listening to any news on COVID-19 except for a once a day update from government officials.
Victoria: I am a bit scared about Covid-19 and the situation but overall, I am fine.
SOGH: What measures are being taken by the government in the fight against COVID-19?
Robert: Social distancing, closing of borders, restricted travel – went from only essential within home suburbs, to up to 50km, to 150km then 250km and by the end of June we could travel about our state. Queensland is a big place. Initially it was no visiting of other family homes, then only one visitor, it graduated to two visitors, then five and now we can have up to 20 persons visit a house.
Victoria: Initially, we were on lockdown. Only doctors, essential government workers and few individuals that provide essential services like food stores, pharmacies and food markets were allowed to move. We were encouraged to stay at home, wash our hands and practice social distancing. Right now, the lockdown has been eased, although not completely. The government has put in several measures to ease the lockdown. For transport, public vehicles are finally allowed to operate but taxis carry seven passengers against the previous fourteen and all occupants have to wear face masks. Only four people are allowed in private vehicles and they must wear face masks and all transport leading to and from border districts are not allowed apart from trucks carrying cargo. All Ugandans going to the city center are expected to maintain social distance of 4 meters, wear masks and wash their hands with soap and water or sanitize before they enter any public buildings, shops, taxis, markets, hospitals, supermarkets, shopping malls. Major buildings, commercial buildings and all public offices must have temperature measuring guns, sanitizer, hand wash, soap and water. The government is encouraging e-learning for all levels. TVs and radios have been bought for people in the rural areas and the government is also actively working on rural electrification to ensure everyone has access to e-learning. In preparation for our 2021 presidential and general elections, the government is encouraging scientific elections where all candidates have to carry out their campaigns electronically through different media forms like TV, radios, internet, Facebook, newspapers. The government is also encouraging people to work from their homes to avoid congestion. Ugandans that are stranded abroad are being flown in by the government and upon return, they are quarantined for fourteen days. The president is still adding measures to ease the lockdown and curb the spread of Covid-19.
SOGH: Can you describe your personal situation and that of those around you? How are you coping?
Robert: I am one of the lucky ones who still have a job. Wages are frozen but we are still working. Government has plenty of support for families who find themselves out of work. Neighbors are looking out for each other. A good takeaway from the Covid-19 restrictions is breaking and entering crime rates in Cairns is down 70%. People are generally coping well and now looking to get things back to normal. We are becoming more and more relaxed about our social distancing at work. Shopping centers are becoming busy places once again.
Victoria: It’s a little hard as we are not working, and we depend on handouts from friends and relatives. Food is available and you can easily access it with money but I and those around me lack money. Most people just want to go back to work.
SOGH: What is different about life now?
Robert: Travel restrictions have been lifted for anyone wishing to travel within our state of Queensland. But, our borders to other states remain closed. We can only have gatherings up to 20 people at this stage, but our government has outlined a detailed plan as to how these restrictions will be eased gradually as we become more confident that we are safe from the Covid-19. It is believed that most cases of Covid-19 in Australia came to us via cruise ships that docked at Sydney and infected passengers were allowed to disembark without compulsory lockdown quarantine. Life is much slower for my family right now. Yes, we are all going to work each day but because there is no sport or dance classes after school, we are all spending more time at home together. We have taken to playing a card game after dinner and jamming on our musical instruments. Sadly, I also watch too much on Netflix, but I have finished some good books too. Our world has become quite insular, rarely do we venture out except to walk the dogs or exercise on bicycles. We can once again travel in our boat out on the reef but at this time of year, it is challenging to find a weekend day when sea conditions are suitable due to our fresh winter winds, yes, even in the tropics. I kind of like not having to rush around so much with my family to sporting, dancing and music events. Life is a little quieter and I’ve noticed more butterflies lately.
Victoria: What is different is that I cannot move freely and even when I move, I don’t move far. There is no freedom and there is lots of anxiety amongst people. Domestic violence has increased, and women and girls are most often the victims. Now, transport is only available to people with stickers given by the government. And if one has a private vehicle, it is only the Resident District Commissioner that permits movement.
SOGH: What are you doing during this period as a result of the situation?
Robert: Not much changed for us. As a teacher, I was still required to attend work every day, on campus, to help supervise children of vulnerable families or essential workers. At the same time, we were preparing lessons for our online students. We were all quite busy to a point that we had little time to worry about Covid-19. We would only have 12 -19 students in a room, all with a least 2 meters between them. At first, we had no sanitizer as it was one of the panic-buying items and stores were empty. So, we all just kept our distance as best we could from each other, including students and kept washing our hands with soap every time we entered our staff room after classes. If a child appeared to have cold-like symptoms, they were asked to call a parent and leave the school. At the peak of our lockdown, we were not to be out of our homes except for essential reasons like food supply, exercise and essential medicines. So, we could justify a look at the city streets under the exercise rule by riding bicycles into town and back. We would just ride through the empty streets in the city, running red lights, as there was no traffic. Stores were shut. We could not stop to rest or risk a $1,300 fine. All public seating had mesh placed around them. All children’s playgrounds closed. No trading. No sport. No arts or entertainment. We were not even allowed to hold public ANZAC Day ceremonies, but Australians did hold personal ceremonies at the end of their own home driveways. I myself played the Last Post for my street neighbors at dawn on April 26th.
Victoria: I am staying at home, that is all I do. I also search for opportunities that may arise from this situation on the internet.
SOGH: What are your personal opinions on the situation?
Robert: Time to get cracking on a vaccine and get borders open again.
Victoria: Government should work on ways of preventing the spread of Covid-19 and we should resume movement as soon as possible otherwise people will die in their houses due to hunger and lack of transport to health centers as already, many people have died because of limited transport to health centers. Covid-19 has also caused poverty and more families are splitting up.
SOGH: What are you looking forward to doing when the peak is over/virus has been contained?
Robert: Having friends over and entertaining without having to count numbers and ensure we are not exceeding the quota of occupants according to Covid-19 social distancing restrictions.
Victoria: I look forward to looking for stable work. When I get a good job, I plan to save and invest.
SOGH: What do you miss doing as a result of COVID-19?
Robert: Being able to wander into town and find a nice restaurant open.
Victoria: I miss my family members in the village, my relatives that live around and my friends.
SOGH: What do you imagine will be different about life/the world when this is over or rather contained?
Robert: I think I will really think twice about going to work with flu-like symptoms. I probably will opt to put on a mask when traveling on an airplane.
Victoria: I imagine people being unemployed, people dying, businesses collapsing, and families falling apart.
SOGH: What acts of kindness have you experienced or witnessed in these times and what acts of kindness have you yourself shown?
Robert: Friends and family were buying food parcels and having them delivered to the vulnerable people who could not get out of their homes. We have been coaching our more senior citizens in the modern ways of connecting via Skype and FaceTime.
Victoria: I have seen private firms, individuals and organizations donate groceries, mattresses, money, water, groceries to people. Such was not the case before Covid-19. My family helps me when I ask for help and my friends have sent me some money to sustain myself. Phone calls from relatives have kept me going as well.
SOGH: What do you fear most during this time?
Robert: One of my family members getting infected with Covid-19.
Victoria: I fear that Covid-19 may not end soon and we may not get back to our normal lives soon. It may take time.
SOGH: How else do you want the government in your country to address the problems caused by COVID-19?
Robert: The Australian government has done a great job containing the virus. Now, I would like guarantees that we do not let others bring it into our country once the borders open. Also, efforts should be put into finding a vaccine.
Victoria: The government should subsidize prices on everything – food, electronics and so on. They should tell employers not to fire people yet and work out ways of paying them off during this time. Government should also not stop sensitizing people about the dangers of Covid-19. They should also educate people in villages about Covid-19 as they seem not to take it seriously.
SOGH: What do you want to tell people around the world in these times?
Robert: We have just been part of one of the main historical events of the 21st century. Let us all learn from it. Stop, smell the roses and consider what is really important in life.
Victoria: People should know that just because they don’t have relatives or friends sick with Covid-19 does not mean the disease is not real. They should be more careful, practice social distancing, wash hands, stay at home. I encourage people to pray to God and I hope that this ends soon.
We would like to thank Robert and Victoria for sharing these interesting insights with us and we wish them all the best in this challenging time!
Make sure you don’t miss the next and final part of the Covid-19 impact series on the SOGH blog with views on the global pandemic from Asia and Europe.
How are you experiencing the lock down in your own country? Can you relate to the challenges that Robert and Victoria are facing? Comment below in the comment box or send us an email to get in touch with us.
BY: Avwerosuoghene Onobrakpeya and Fiona Koeltringer