IN the oral literature of the Akan people, no animal is endowed, or cloaked with, as much fearsomeness as the leopard.
Known as ɔsebɔ, etwie oraboa fufuo, this predator was deadly to our ancestors because it could come close to human settlements and hide along the paths people took to go to their farms. Then it would strike without notice.
It could climb trees and hide in their foliage. And descend from the tops of the tallest trees with the speed and striking agility of a hunting falcon.
On the ground, it had the manoeuvrability agility of the domestic cat. Yet its jaws and the teeth they encased were as powerful as those of the mighty lion.
The Akyem people, in particular, were so frightened of the leopard that they gave their own King, the person they reverenced the most, the symbolic title of “Etwie”.
Indeed, some of the most enchanting words that describe graceful, stealthy movements were ascribed to the Etwie. In drum language and apaeɛ lyrics, our ancestors apostrophised the leopard as a mighty creation, with the awe-inspiring name of Kurotwiamansa: (The creature that can empty whole nations of their populace!)
Kurotwiamansa nam seseaa ase ma seseaa ase woso biribiribiri,
[Even when Kurotwiamansa merely walks under the thicket, it rumbles and rustles: biribiribiribiri. So what would happen, if Kurotwiamansa were to climb into the thicket itself?]
Another lyric says almost the same thing but with a different connotation:
Kurotwiamansa nam haban ase
Rewe sika nhwiren!
[Kurotwiamansa is gliding along under the thicket,
Chewing on a flower made of pure gold!]
Well, that's enough incantation of Kurotwiamansa as a legend of an animal. But why am I drawing such a fearsome animal to your attention today?
The point is that when I look at Covid-19, it reminds me of the horrendous power the leopard used to wield over our people. Covid-19, like the leopard, is sneaky and no respecter of persons!
It got Mrs Angela Merkel, Chancellor of one of the most technologically-advanced states in the world, Germany. It also got Boris Johnson, prime minister of Great Britain, once the ruler of an “empire on which the sun never set!”
And for good measure, it got the Ghana Minister of Health, who has bravely been leading us in the battle against the pandemic and laying down the rules for doing so! What audacity hasn't Covid-19 demonstrated for everyone to see?
Well, what can one say about this horrendous beast of an entity?
Nothing much, I am afraid. Except this: PREVENTION IS THE ONLY MEDICINE IT FEARS! FOR PREVENTION CAN CURB IT!
What do I mean? If you look at the countries that have managed, most successfully, to control the disease, you will find that they were all adherents of the preventive measures methodology that can be employed to defeat Covid-19.
New Zealand is probably the most successful nation in preventing Covid-19. Of course, it was assisted, of course, by its natural environment, being an island (but then, isn't Britain too an island?)
You can glean the methodology New Zealand used, from this official report:
QUOTE: Media release 19 June 2020
“There are no new cases of COVID-19 to report in New Zealand today. Yesterday our laboratories completed 6,273 tests, bringing the total number of tests completed to date to 327,460. [New Zealand's population is 5 million, which means that almost 10% of the population had been tested.).
The official report comments that “This is a high number of tests, that represent a mix of testing in the community, but also testing at our managed isolation and quarantine facilities, and following up people who may have had contact with our recent confirmed cases.....
The report adds that a as a result of these tests, “Another two significant clusters have closed today – those associated with [a] wedding, ….and a rest home. There is one remaining significant cluster that is still open... Managed isolation or quarantine, is the key part of our border security, with the ROUTINE TESTING we have since added [constituting] an additional measure to strengthen the border.....
“No one is now allowed to leave managed isolation, for any reason, without [first] returning a negative test for COVID-19.... On June 16, exemptions from managed isolation on compassionate grounds were suspended. UNQUOTE
Now, let us look at another very successful country, Taiwan:
QUOTE: “The first confirmed imported case in Taiwan was reported on January 21, 2020,. [This] was an individual residing in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. As of April 11, 2020, a total of 385 cases have been confirmed in Taiwan, with 6 mortalities reported.
“There has so far been no evidence of community infection in Taiwan.[The reason is that] after the SARS outbreak in 2003, Taiwan has been routinely screening for fever on all inbound international transportation. at ports of entry, and conducting quarantine assessments on the travel history of fever individuals. In response to the COVID-19 epidemic. which first originated from Wuhan, China, the Taiwan Central Epidemics Command Centre (CECC) has been constantly strengthening international epidemic surveillance, as well as border control measures.
“To minimize the risk of any community outbreaks, passengers presenting with fever at international... ports of entry are required to clarify any travel history and undergo comprehensive health assessment to evaluate the need for on-the-spot, compulsory transfer to hospital.” UNQUOTE
What are the preventive measureswe in Ghana need to strengthen urgently? As our schools reopen, we ought to train more TESTING PERSONNEL and provide them with adequate numbers of test kits, so that if Covid-19 attacks any individual in a school, the infection can be very quickly detected and isolation measures put in place. We certainly don't need a swarm of Covid-19 infected schools!
I emphasise that thetesting is of particular importance, because even adults in Ghana are not keen on ALWAYS observing the disciplineof wearing face masks (for example) or washing hands with sanitisers frequently. As for observing social distance, it's a joke with most of us. Just go to any work-place or building site, be unobtrusive and and watch how the workers behave. We must never forget that ONE SINGLE WORKER at the Pioneer Fish Processing Factory at Tema was able to infect nearly 600 colleagues with Covid-19.
So it can be taken for granted that children and young adults will also fail to implement the measures, maybe (if we are to be charitable) out ofsheer forgetfulness.
Meanwhile, I offer my best ayikoo[congratulations] to all Ghanaians who have been helping, in various unsung but heroic ways, to curb the proclivities of the predator, Covid-19 [Kurotwiamansa].
I also congratulate our Minister of Health on his speedy recovery. Important persons in the community must learn from his case that it pays to “level” with the public all the time, rather than try to hide facts from them!
Sure, Covid-19 has hung itself around our necks (like the deadly Kurotwiamansa) and is waiting to pounce to “empty our nation of its people.”.
But the Almighty has equipped us with superior brains to fight back. Even if we need to reintroduce the knock-down at any point, let us be brainy enough not to fear to do so! We should tell Covid-19 that “iron exists that can cut through other iron!” [Translation of Ewe proverb]