The Minister of Health, Jane Ruth Aceng is the news for the first time in this year of COVID for particularly the wrong reasons following a long spell of enjoying praise from a litany of citizens.
Aceng was ‘scientifically’ carried shoulder high in March this year after she launched verbal artillery towards a foreign national during a meeting with people who were under quarantine in Entebbe.
“Shut up, if you keep shouting we shall leave you here for 14 days, you either stay here or exit,” Aceng ordered in a video that went viral.
The next day and the next couple of months, she was the talk of the country, earning praise from every nook and cranny, with some overly excited social media users proposing she becomes the president.
Aceng’s credentials (in Zari’s voice) shot so high that even foreign media were all over profiling her and singling her out for praise. She would soon earn the name ‘mama corona” on merit by the way.
The minister gave us so much hope, her continuous direction on wearing masks, washing hands with water/soap, and social distancing reached far and wide.
I am one of the people who can give testimony that she has been consistent with the message on directions against COVID-19.
During a scientific event in Kololo in April, the minister saw me from a distance resting my mask, she walked towards me and with her mask on said; “You should keep the mask on,” and mumbled a thank you as I pulled it back on.
Since that day, I have learnt to have my mask on whenever in public, it does not mean I do not have moments when I walk out without a mask on, only to be reminded by someone of circumstance.
Yes, there are times when as I walk into a building, I remember I am not putting on a mask, and yes I have seen people walking with masks hanging around their necks and chins.
I believe you have also seen people talking to each other in close range and all have their masks lowered below the mouth. I know we have all witnessed people walk on this street of ours without masks.
This is the first time in our lives that we have to walk around with masks, even if we don’t intend to infect anyone. It is something we are surely not used to, hence must remind each other whenever we can.
That Minister Aceng (who truthfully should be the custodian of COVID guidelines) was pictured without a mask in a moment does not mean her message is wrong and should be forfeited henceforth.
The fact that she rested her mask in a moment, does not mean that COVID-19 does not exist in Uganda. It would actually be foolish for someone to run such an idea in their mental engine.
The fact that we have not recorded any death does not mean that COVID is a political making of the sitting government. It would be good for whoever has such a view to keep it so jealously to themselves and let the rest live cautiously.
I have read so many social media posts blaming Aceng for causing the public to lose hope. Many are now suggesting that several people will be seen in the city without masks since the minister has set a precedent.
I would like to think that we have grown so much as people to base our health behaviour on specific actions of someone else. Life is as personal as it gets, if one is putting on a mask because someone else is putting it on, then we may as well say we have failed as a country.
The decision to safeguard yourself from COVID is a personal one which should come from the value you attach to your life. The ministers like Aceng and the government are there to guide us.
If someone out there is desperately looking for an inspiration to put on a mask from a government official, they can as well pick a leaf from President Museveni who by the way hosted a scientific wedding for his cousin sister and all had masks on. But does one need personal inspiration? If the fact that people in countries as near as Kenya are dying of COVID is not inspirational enough, then whether Minister Aceng sews a mask on her skin or not, it won’t make a difference.
— Yoweri K Museveni (@KagutaMuseveni) July 12, 2020
The virus is not a making of Minister Aceng or the government, however much many of you would want to drive that idea home ( which is pathetic reasoning by the way). This is a global pandemic.
So, with or without a mask, Minister Aceng has made enough cases for people to wear their masks.
With or without a mask, Minister Aceng’s message on COVID should remain valid, it would be foolhardy for anyone to stop putting on masks because social media is claiming the minister had no mask.
It would be incautious for anyone out there to go strolling in public without a mask and their reason being, ah ah minister naye yabadde talina! (The minister also did not have). Such a person lacks personal ambition and is a huge danger to him/herself and those cheering him/her on.
It does not benefit us in any way, to pour all venom on Minister Aceng (whom we have given so much support in the previous time) because of a picture taken where many of us weren’t.
It is important that we use the time instead to remind ourselves of our own mask behaviours and understand that we are not far away from COVID, because all it takes is laxity and adamancy.
The Minister’s message remains valid; Have your mask on when in public, wash your hands regularly with soap and water, maintain a social distance……. because sick people have no time to debate on social media.
The writer is a private contributor to the Nile Post.