But upon further reflection, Tim and I have decided that it may be best for us to wait out the storm in Africa, even if that means we'll be quarantined and on lock-down in whichever country we find ourselves in. Uganda, Kenya, or Ethiopia are our immediate options, though it's not like we'll have a choice when it happens. And when the lock-down begins, we'll be stuck. For how long, we don't know.
Is this really the best option for us? Well, there's no saying for sure, but the following is a snapshot of what's been happening out here, and why we're choosing not to leave.
The Situation Now in East Africa
That means that businesses are still open, there are even other tourists at the hotels going on safaris and hiking through the national parks. Stores are full of supplies and no one is panic buying. Yes, there is even toilet paper, but in all honesty, most people out here have squat toilets and don't use toilet paper.
In some ways, this region is well-equipped to go into survival mode. Most people who live in rural areas rely on food grown and raised right in their backyard, and the rainy season has provided the region with lots of healthy crops and gardens. We are in an area of fresh water lakes, while herds of cows graze through the fields. So no one seems to be concerned with running out of basic necessities. Even electricity is often obtained from solar panels.
At the border between Rwanda and Uganda they were taking everyone's temperatures, forcing you to sterilize your boots and hands, and the guards and medical personnel were wearing masks and gloves. I have to say, it did look a bit apocalyptic to see a camo-clad soldier holding an AK47 with rubber gloves on and a doctor's face mask. What sort of bio-terrorism guerrilla warfare sci-fi tv show have we stepped into?
Outside of the border, no one on the street is wearing masks. But everyone is watching the news closely, washing their hands, giving elbow bumps instead of hand shakes. They know the drill here, and no one in Africa makes fun of virus epidemics. It's an unfortunate part of African life.
What will happen as it spreads...
East Africa has some real disadvantages in the fight against this pandemic, such as poor economies based in tourism that may not easily recover from a financial slump, few qualified health care professionals, and a lack of a solid medical infrastructure. But Africa may also have a couple of advantages.
Those are who are smokers are also more susceptible to having serious complications of the Coronavirus. I'm happy to say that Tim quit smoking nearly a year ago, and we're now more thankful than ever that he did. But besides him, East Africa doesn't have a lot of smokers: only 4% of adults in Ethiopia are smokers compared to 21% in the US as of 2018 (source).
I can only hope that these factors will spare East Africa from becoming a humanitarian disaster. This is just a hope though, as the only way to truly know is to wait and see.
We will most likely need to renew and extend our visas, and if there's a quarantine and we're forced to stay put, I have no idea how that will affect our visas, as this is all unprecedented. But we'll find out I suppose.
Maybe if we are in a place long-term, we'll rent an apartment. We're still traveling with Leo, which has been wonderful, and especially in a difficult situation, it's good to have a friend around so that we know we're not in this alone.
Also, we are so thankful to have the messages and well-wishes from all of you out there, and we wish only the same for you.
We'll write Part 2 once we know how things out here are going to progress.