The demand and price of lemons have shot up across food markets in Kasese and Bunyangabu districts in western Uganda. With the belief by local residents that lemons boost their immunity against the coronavirus (COVID-19), more people are now including lemons on their groceries shopping list.
In Kasese municipality, Shs 2,000 can buy between three and four small lemons. A piece of lemon costs Shs 500 and the case isn't any different in Rwimi town council in Bunyangabu district, which is already faced with the scarcity of lemons. Previously, Shs 500 would buy 3-5 lemons.
Rose Kemigisha, a vendor outside Kasese main market, says the demand for lemon and ginger is now higher compared to May this year. She says most of her customers believe lemons and ginger offer natural protection against coronavirus.
"Even right now, I'm just left with a few to sell, people are demanding for lemon like never before," Kemigisha said.
Annet Masiika, a vendor in Mawa market in Nyamwamba division sells a small piece of lemon at Shs 500. She says prior to the COVID-19 outbreak in the country, only a handful of vendors were selling lemons because of low demand. She, however, says this has suddenly changed because of increased demand for the lemons.
Shafik Bitaijukae, a fruits vendor in Rwimi town council, says most of his clients demand that he includes a piece of lemon in their shopping package. David Masereka, a boda boda rider at Kisanyarazi stage, says he has started taking lemon daily after being advised by friends that it can help in the fight against COVID-19.
Masereka says he is at a higher risk of contracting coronavirus because he interacts with various people due to the nature of his work. He, however, said lemons have now become so costly.
"Right here you can't get lemons, you have to buy them from town and even there, they are very expensive for small earners like me," said Masereka.
Dr. James Muliwabyo, the in-charge Kasese Municipal health centre III, says contrary to common belief, lemons haven't been scientifically proved to heal COVID-19. He, however, says the fruits may limit the duration of the common colds in some people. Citrus fruits like lemons are high in vitamin C and have primary antioxidants that help protect cells from damaging free radicals.
Former presidential candidate and opposition Forum for Democratic Change, Rtd. Col Kizza Besigye posted on his social media platforms that one's immunity and fight against coronavirus can be boosted by taking 2 spoons every 8 hours a concoction made from ginger, red pepper, lemons, garlic, onion - all blended together with water.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends wearing of facemasks, social distancing, handwashing and sanitizing of surfaces as the core preventive measures against the coronavirus which continues to ravage the entire world.
Uganda which is now in level 4 (high level) of the pandemic, as of Saturday, December 12 registered 27,071 cumulative confirmed coronavirus cases, 220 deaths and 9,744 recoveries. The country's already sick healthcare has been overstretched with at least 100 coronavirus patients admitted in intensive care units with acute symptoms.