Even as we enjoy the unprecedented freedom of speech and expression under the NRM government, it is absolutely imperative that Professional Media Practitioners who are the greatest beneficiaries of this freedom do not excel at abusing it.
Haji Bashir Kazibwe, President of the Uganda Journalists Association (UJA) has again made headlines. This time it is not about being the victim of an airborne poison that was designed to affect only him. It is about casting doubt about the need to quarantine or isolate otherwise innocent fellow human beings suspected of having come into contact with Covid-19.
We shall not reproduce the otherwise harmful broadcast on the government-owned BUKEDDE FM. And we shall not dwell on the fact that the style of presentation fell far below basic standards of broadcasting, a matter we shall leave to the Uganda Communications Commission. Let it be said however, that to use professional electronic broadcasting simply as a loudspeaker for phone-callers to say whatever they want to say without professional moderation is a pointer to the quality of journalism Ugandans have to put up with.
The possibility that those in quarantine may not be ill has never been doubted. It is even the prayer that they do not fall ill. It is also a fact that many with Covid-19 symptoms do not feel any distress when they are detected and held. However, if this absence of distress is taken as the proof that they are not affected of infected, and if even respected media practitioners adopt this unscientific line as policy, we shall all suffer.
Some of the terms that are in currency today might require definition and they include quarantine and isolation.
The dictionary describes quarantine as “a state, period, or place of isolation in which people or animals that have arrived from elsewhere or been exposed to infectious or contagious disease are placed.”
According to John Kelly, Senior Research Editor at Dictionary.com there is a difference between Quarantine and Isolation.
He explains that people sometimes use quarantine and isolation interchangeably to refer to separating people in various ways due to the spread of a disease. But for doctors, public health officials, and other professionals, there is an important distinction between quarantine and isolation.
In general, a quarantine is “a strict isolation imposed to prevent the spread of disease.” We know what you might be thinking: so, a quarantine is … just an isolation? Not exactly.
What does isolation mean?In general, isolation is when someone or something is set apart or separated from other persons or things. In medical contexts, isolation specifically means “the complete separation from others of a person suffering from contagious or infectious disease.”
Again, according to the CDC, the practice of isolation entails the separation of a person or group of people known or reasonably believed to be infected with a communicable disease and potentially infectious from those who are not infected to prevent spread of the communicable disease. Isolation for public health purposes may be voluntary or compelled by federal, state, or local public health order.
Isolation happens when a person is infected with a communicable disease, and is separated from people who are healthy. This also helps stop the spread of the disease.
Let us remember the guidance given by President Yoweri Museveni at the beginning of this war against Covid-19. He said that even if it later transpired that we were too careful, to err on the side of caution would be acceptable.
No one enjoys being quarantined or isolated, especially if that person actually feels well. We expected professional journalists to know this and to take the necessary steps to interrogate claims of the nature cited above, but it seems these expectations were on a false assumption that we are all united in the campaign against Covid-19.