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01.02.2020 Feature Article

Responding To The Coronavirus Outbreak

Responding To The Coronavirus Outbreak
LISTEN FEB 1, 2020

The Coronavirus outbreak that started in China keeps spreading. According to US media, 18 countries now have recorded cases-- with 9800 cases and 213 deaths as of this morning- most of these being men.

In response, the WHO has declared a PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY OF INTERNATIONAL CONCERN for only the 6th time in its history. There, emergencies are declared when there is "an extraordinary event which is determined to constitute a public health risk to the OTHER STATES THROUGH INTERNATIONAL SPREAD OF DISEASE " ( Caps mine). WHO boss Dr. Ghebreyesus called this an "unprecedented outbreak " and urged that we must "all act together now to limit further spread".

In response, China has imposed a massive quarantine of the residents of Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province where the crisis started-- to protect the rest of China!

The United States has evacuated its citizens from Wuhan and upon arrival, they were quarantined for 3 days voluntarily and tested. It was announced that after release, these citizens would be monitored for up to 2 weeks, which is the incubation period of the disease. In addition, the US has urged its citizens NOT to travel to China.

Russia, India, Britain, and other countries are taking protective measures and international airlines are cancelling flights to China.

China is now Africa's largest trading partner and there are estimates that about a million Chinese live in Africa with thousands in Ghana. Unofficial estimates are that about 4000 Ghanaians travel to China on business every month.

In the light of these, the measures announced by Ghana Health Service and our mission in China appear inadequate.

On behalf of the GHS, Dr. Laryea announced screening at airports and public education measures.

What does the screening consists of? Are those from China being tested for the disease? Are there plans for monitoring beyond airports?

In the light of China's measures and those of US and the airlines, shouldn't we urge Ghanaians NOT travel to China till further notice?

Shouldn't we be training healthcare workers on how to diagnose and treat this disease?

Thousands of Chinese travelled back home for the Chinese new year. The AU should urge China to undertake, as a gesture of solidarity, predeparture screening for coronavirus of all Chinese returning to Africa from the affected province.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. We see China's health house on fire. We see countries with more resources and better infrastructure acting aggressively.

We should get water ready to put out this fire WHEN it reaches us.

Long live Ghana.
Arthur Kobina Kennedy, MD ( 31st January, 2020)