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10.11.2020 Feature Article

Letting Our “guard Down” Over Covid-19

Letting Our “guard Down” Over Covid-19
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I have been following the advice of the health experts and avoiding unnecessary outings. Indeed, I've managed to go to only one major outside event and one private outing in the past two weeks. At both places, the anti-Covid protocols were fully observed and I was left in no fear that maybe I shouldn't have gone.

However, going to one of the events meant depending on a car service for transport. My first objection to some of these cars is that they are so tiny that I feel unsafe in them. It's no use telling me that the cars have been certified as safe by the authorities in the countries where they are made. For neither Spain nor South Korea (from where most of these tin-boxes are imported) would tolerate road standards as atrocious as ours.

But even if our roads were up to standard, it's important that a passenger should feel safe and comfortable in a car. For most people are hard-wired to be neurotic. So we should not be forced to pay for services that put us in an uncomfortable mental situation. This means that our licensing authorities should take psychological factors into consideration when allowing certain types of vehicles to be used for commercial purposes in our cities.

Those with a long memory will recall that Accra taxis were once noted both for their quality and comfort. The most popular car used for taxis in the pre-independence era and the years immediately after, was the Morris Oxford Series 2. This car had leather seats: a taxi with leather seats!. So its competition had to have something else. And they did, for they were mainly luxurious Opel Kapitans and Mercedes Benz 180s.

Later on, an attempt to bring socialism into the taxi trade resulted in the importation of Russian-made “Volga” cars to be used as taxis. Unfortunately for our Government, the Volga cars had a rather high front-end, and when they were cruising, they looked like prancing horses. So, Ghanaians, well-known for their wicked sense of humour, laughed at them and rechristened

them “Pnkab dam”[the horse has gone crazy!) Needless to say, they were soon sidelined.

Anyway, I became almost immediately angry when I got into a tiny car recently to go out. For when I asked the driver to help me to fasten my rather stiff safety belt, he said to me: “It would dirty your trousers!”

"So you know the safety belt is dirty and yet you're on the road using the car to make money?”

Needless to say, all thought of enjoying myself that afternoon was driven from my mind and replaced with resentment at the lack of enforcement of regulations in Ghana.

Run a car -- even for personal private use let alone for commercial purposes -- without a safety seat and you would be heavily fined in some countries.

My heart was in my mouth all the way to my destination. Suppose the car had a crash? I would be tossed through the windscreen like a piece of – what? Mashed meatballs?

Believe it or not, my return journey home was even worse! The car did not have air-conditioning and,, without my knowing it, the driver had opened the window on my side.

“What's wrong with your air-conditioning?” I asked on noticing this. I knew from past experience that he would say the A.C. had “run out of gas” and that he would go and “refill” it next week by all means!

But I was wrong! Instead, he gave me a completely new excuse which previous smart-ass drivers like him had never given to me: “The motor has stopped working,” he said.

The motor? I would have laughed and let the matter rest, except that when we entered a traffic jam, a persistent seller of something or other (I had turned my head away on seeing him so I couldn't tell what he was selling!) poked his head right into the car – yes – and shouted into my breathing space, “Master,, buy some!”

You've guessed it – the fellow was not wearing a face mask! And that threw me! Imagine being infected with Covid-19 by a street vendor whose wares you weren't even prepared to look at?

I therefore applaud the President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, for his charge

to us, made in his 19th Covid-19 broadcast, not to let “our guard down”, because a second wave of Covid-19 has hit Europe and America, "but not us". It might hit us too of we are not careful, the President emphasised.

He noted that three weeks ago,i(n his “Update No.18”, that is) he had indicated that the number of recorded active Covid-19 cases (or persons with the virus) was “in decline” in Ghana. The statistics were “pointing to the fact that we were on the path towards defeating the virus.” So, our nation, in the weeks prior to that address, “had become accustomed to this downward slide of active cases.”

However, “in recent weeks, a gradual change in the trajectory of the virus” had been observed. There was “an increase in active cases from the three hundred and ninety-eight (398) cases recorded three weeks ago, to one thousand, one hundred and thirty-nine (1,139) active cases, as at Friday, 6th November 2020”.

The number of daily infections was “on the rise, from an average of twenty-five (25) new cases per day then, to an average of over one hundred and thirty (130) new cases per day in the course of the last two weeks.”

These figures gave cause for concern – in view of the fact that hat was happening in Europe and America, namely, “the outbreak of a second wave of infections” that was engulfing many countries.

Over here, scientists at the West African Centre for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens, at the University of Ghana, Legon, collaborating with the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research, who are studying the genetic make-up of the virus in Ghana, had established that the virus had not changed. However, “a reduction in compliance with the preventive protocols account for the increase in infections.”

The President went on: “Fellow Ghanaians, it appears that we are letting our guard down. Now more than ever, we have to adhere to mask-wearing, hand-washing, the use of sanitizers, and social distancing protocols that have become a part of our daily routines, and which has ensured that we do not impose, all over again, the restrictions we are seeing in other parts of the world.”

So, it is over to us. We must renew our relentless effort to contain Covid-19. When we see the mistakes that certain Governments (such as the UK and the US) have made in their own approach to the problem, we must thank our luck stars that our own Government appears up to the onerous task of ensuring our safety from the virus. We must do our bit, as a populace, to support the Government's efforts.

In return, the Government, on its part, must be ready to unleash strict punishment on all those who insist on flouting the rules that ensure our collective safety. Without sanctions, some people will deliberately endanger others – people like the vendor who poked his head into my car window, just to sell me something I didn't want!

We deserve better than that, from our law enforcement agencies.

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