Ghana's stalled war against COVID-19
Let's face it.
The 3,613 cases and 372 deaths are probably undercounts. Like the rest of the world, Covid 19 is raging out of control in Ghana. Aside from statistics, barely a day goes by without the reported illness or death of an acquaintance or a public figure.
The list is too long to reprise here. And for every known victim, there are many unknown ones.
After starting slow, we were doing very well.
A lockdown and border-closures that showed seriousness, mask mandates, contact-tracing and batch-testing that garnered global applause.
And a President who appeared serious.
Then political campaigns and holidays and reckless parties came. Campaigns and parties without masks or social distancing!
And we lost focus.
Today, as the world distributes vaccines, we are still studying the purchase of vaccines. The Covax facility, led by the WHO, which will supply the world's poorest countries with 2 billion doses by the end of 2021 will not have enough for us. We must arrange to buy some, for our frontline health workers, police and trotro and bus drivers at the minimum, urgently.
But enough vaccines will not come early enough to stem the tide.
While we wait for vaccines, we must return to doing the fundamentals of public health well.
Let us expand testing, make it accessible and affordable and increase the turnaround time.
We must revamp the contact tracing that was the envy of the world to help snuff out outbreaks. It has ground to a halt.
There must be serious consideration of Government-funded isolation centers that would help the residents of crowded dwellings isolate effectively when they test positive. They can't afford to separate from their families. This is being done in China and parts of Asia to great effect.
We must supply masks and durable face-coverings to those at risk, for free if neccesary. Masks are central to this effort.
And we must enforce mask-wearing in public places with realistic fines.
The restrictions on church, mosques, night clubs and other public gatherings have been token and honoured in the breach.
Our beneficent Allah will hear prayers from our homes. Let's enforce real restrictions on unnecessary gatherings.
Honestly, the NCCE has been asleep at the switch. If ever there was a mission for it, this is it. Let it rise up and perform.
There are too many therapies of unproven value being peddled. The medical authorities must put out guidelines for Outpatient management of Covid, educate Doctors and clamp down on frauds.
It is important for Parliament to step in, do effective executive oversight and ensure that government institutions are doing appropriate things and have adequate funding.
The public too has a role.
We must take responsibility for our health. Let us stop unnecessarily celebrations. To be alive on your birthday is enough. Don't put on super-spreader parties that will make people sick and cause death.
Let's have limited, socially-distanced funerals that honour the dead without exposing the living unnecessarily.
Let's halt visits to side-chicks that put our families at risk.
And let the media hold government accountable and educate us.
Together, we shall overcome.
May God protect us all and bless Ghana.
Arthur Kobina Kennedy, MD
27th January, 2021.
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