On 12th March 2020, the Ministry of Health (MOH) and Ghana Health Service (GHS) jointly addressed the media to declared COVID-19 outbreak in the country with two confirmed cases. Subsequently, this has increased to seven and counting as the days roll by. Although all the cases were imported, it still has the potential of spreading to other parts of the country as a result of the over three hundred and eighty contacts linked to the seven cases. This is causing fear and panic among the populace of this country since the announcement was made.
In January 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak of a new coronavirus disease in Wuhan City, Hubei Province in China as a Public Health Emergency of International concern which has the potential of spreading to other countries around the world. The WHO, further stated that Ghana needs cedi equivalent of $35m to fight this deadly disease that is ravaging the whole world like harmattan bush fire.
Regrettably, despite this warning, our political leadership goes to sleep and therefore demonstrated incompetents and cluelessness as to what to do to strengthen our porous borders and entry points and also equip, and resource the Health sector to respond timely to the outbreak as seen in other parts of the world. Remarkably, as most world leaders were running round to finding an antidote to combating the disease, our president was on an execution to Europe with some key members of his cabinet, where the disease was already at its peak. Fortunately, Ghanaians are living testimony to how this nation reacted decisively to the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, Dr. Congo and other parts of the world in 2015.
It should be noted our fellow countrymen and women that, this pandemic goes beyond our usual petty partisanship. However, the Nana Addo’s led administration has not lived above reproach by responding timely and appropriately to confront this pandemic head on. Indeed, the story might have been different if the government had acted decisively and equally adhered to the WHO advice when they pressed the warning bottom in late January of the possibility of the COVID-19 becoming a global issue.
The allocation of the $100m to fighting the pandemic should it spread to Ghana came too late as Ghanaians were already asking relevant questions such as; “why is it that the president addressed the public on March 11 2020, and less than twenty hours, i.e. March 12, 2020, COVID-19 was confirmed in the country”. Shockingly and unbelievably, we are now been told the $100m the president indicated he has released to combats the pandemic when he addressed the media is not even ready.
Conspicuously indeed, all well-meaning Ghanaians are aware that the GHS was ill-prepared to respond appropriately and effectively to the disease on its outbreak in the country. President Nana Addo and his allies were unconcerned and showed it by failing to equipping the health sector timely with the necessary resources such as Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs), capacity building of health staff through training and orientation, training and reactivation of Rapid Respond Teams (RRTs) at all levels, the development of Social and Behaviour Change Communication (SBCC) tools, training of staff on Infection Prevention and Control, Training of Health Educators and Health Promotion officers to champion public sensitization and awareness creation, construction or identification of temporary holding and isolation centres across all levels of the health delivery system among others. The already lack of the PPEs in most of the hospitals and health centres make staff of GHS panic any time patients presented symptoms such as; fever, coughing, difficulty in breathing at the health facilities since they are not protected themselves.
Though ATAG appreciates the fact that preparedness is a process, the current happenings in the health sector especially the lack of PPEs in most of the health facilities to be used by health staff before they attend to patients showing the signs and symptoms of the coronavirus and the resultant fear and panic that engrossed health staff is a clear demonstration that government was caught pants down with the outbreak of the COVID-19 in the country.
Indeed the closure of all schools from Kindergarten to tertiary institutions, both public and private and also banning all public gathering to help break the chain of transmitting of the COVID-19 from further spreads is a step in the right direction and shall be fully adhered to. The COVID-19 is a matter of life and death and should not be toyed with. Experienced has shown the first one to two months of any outbreak is very critical, as cases are most likely to surge up, plateau and drop subsequently.
Tragically, as a country, we have to brace ourselves up as the COVID-19 currently has no preventive vaccine. However, the only antidote to avoid being exposed to this deadly virus is by religiously practising the following preventive strategies;
- Avoid handshakes/hugs
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
- Avoid crowded places and ensure you do not travel while sick
- Avoid close contact with any sick person showing the symptoms of respiratory illness
- Avoid contacts with animals, their excretion and droppings (especially wild animals)
- Cover your mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue when coughing or sneezing
- Cook meat and eggs thoroughly before eating
- Wash your hands often with soap under running water (especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing)
- Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer (if soap and water are not immediately available)
- Keep a distance of at least two meters from a person with fever, cough, sneezing & difficulty in breathing
- Be physically active, drink plenty of water, eat healthily, avoid stress and have enough sleep
- Stay at home, if you feel unwell with the above-stated symptoms, reduce close contact with people and contact Ghana Health Service-immediately through these HOT Lines:0509497700, 0558439868
Therefore, the timely implementation of the following recommendations by government and its partners will further strengthen the work of the health sector in fighting the pandemic, such as; providing adequate resources to the health sector by mobilizing the $100m cedi equivalent for re-tooling and capacity building of the health staff, especially the frontline staff and health educators and resource them to create awareness on the pandemic, stop the NIA and EC from going on with their registrations and intended registration respectively, seal our borders to the most affected countries (China, Italy, South Korea, Iran, Spain, Germany, France, USA, Switzerland, UK etc), quarantine travellers from all other infected countries for the 14 days mandatory period, provide adequate PPEs to GHS, pay service providers owed by the NHIA to enable them purchase essential medicine and non-consumables, , establish holding centres across all the levels of the health delivery system and move away from self-quarantine, open diagnostics centres in all regional capital to be able to isolate the coronavirus, set up compensation for health staff that might get infected in the course of duty, using the security services to block all illegal entry points to our neighbouring countries, ensure that GPRTU starts taking records of all travellers for easy contact tracing among others.
Seidu Jaadi - Lead Convener of ATAG Tel:, 0572593390:, Rashid Mahamud-Tel: 0207452353 & Martin Kundor -Tel: 0242546740 (Communication and Media Relation Officers ), Mujeeb Angbang (Policy and Research Officer) Tel: 0205 767 636 [Supported by: Ibrahim Maalisung Tel: 0209 313 640 & Naeem Mahmud Tel: 0279 442 154]