Since the outbreak of the Coronavirus, globally, the number of confirmed cases stands at 1,407,123 with 297,934 recoveries and 80,759 deaths. In the United States of America, there have been 385,449 confirmed cases with 20,027 recoveries and 12,216 deaths. Similarly, in Spain, the number confirmed cases stands at 140,511 with 43,208 recoveries and 13,897 deaths. The number of confirmed cases in Italy stands at 135,586 with 24,392 recoveries and 17,127 deaths. Source: Wikipedia 7 April 2020 at 19.45 GMT.
In Ghana, 287 cases have been confirmed with 3 recoveries and 5 deaths. Source: Ghana Health Service. Many Ghanaians have been alarmed by the statistics so far. Let me sound pessimistic, we should expect to see more confirmed cases and other outcomes if contact tracing is effective in the Country. This is because there are many generations of contacts in the general population.
In the coming days we shall reach the peak when enough contact tracing and testing has been done, with confirmed cases isolated and treated. The rates will begin to fall because they may not be further infections due to preventive measure put in place. Also, there would have been many recoveries from the condition. Unfortunately, there would have been enough fatalities too.
In all this, one will say that the Ghana situation looks more favourable compared to the United States, Spain, Italy and other countries considering the strength of the health systems of the respective countries.
What has helped in the fight against COVID-19 so far in Ghana?
Among other strategies the following have stood tall:
1. The closure of the entry points of the country and mandatory quarantine is one of the single most effective strategy that has worked. Many confirmed cases came from this intervention. Though the cross went before the flag, President Nana Addo Danquah Akuffo Addo deserves commendations for this intervention.
2. The effectiveness of the lockdown of Greater Accra, Greater Kumasi, Obuasi and other COVID-19 endemic areas cannot be underestimated in the fight against the pandemic. This has enabled effective contact tracing and confirmation of cases and other related activities.
3. Massive public education on the Coronavirus by health authorities, civil society mostly through the media and other news outlets has not in any small way contributed to the fight against the virus.
4. The President’s recent announcement on incentives for health workers has given the fight another big boost.
How can we accelerate the fight against the Coronavirus in Ghana?
There are more opportunities for us to capitalize on to win the fight against the Coronavirus. This includes but not limited to the following:
1. There is the need for intensified contact tracing among the population. The President’s announcement of incentive of GHS150.00 for Contact Tracers per day is therefore in the right direction. This will help identify more cases and help in reaching the peak of the pandemic early in Ghana. Even though the incentive is good, I believe if it is enhanced, more people will get involved and the existing Contact Tracers will also double-up their efforts. I hear the Ghana Association of Surveys and other individuals have developed software Applications that can assist with contact tracing. Maybe we should leverage this initiative.
2. As mentioned earlier, the closure of borders and other entry points into the country is crucial in the fight against the pandemic in Ghana. The President’s announcement of the extension of this embargo is welcoming and must be supported by all.
3. Aggressive testing in the general population, especially in COVID-19 endemic communities is another strategy that can be employed to win the fight.
4. Extension of the lockdown in Greater Accra, Greater Kumasi and the other areas is necessary in this fight. Though the lockdown maybe inconveniencing, if it becomes necessary from the outcome of the test results pending that it should be extended, I think the government should do so for the period deemed as necessary. This will facilitate more effective contact tracing and related activities necessary in the fight against the pandemic. However, in the event that there’s an extension of the lockdown Government, Civil Society, Philanthropists etc would have to look at supporting the poor and vulnerable with food, shelter, clothes, medical care and other essentials of life.
5. Supply of more Personal Protective Equipment to health workers. Generally, the response of the state as far PPEs for Health workers in this fight has been very poor. Checks in many health facilities, especially District Hospitals across the country reveal that very few PPEs are available for health workers to tackle the pandemic. It will be an exercise in futility if health workers are adequately trained, with all the incentives if there are no adequate PPEs for them to use to fight the pandemic.
6. The Group Insurance for health workers is welcoming news. However, many health workers that I have come across feel the Insurance Package is too basic. For many health workers to get onboard the fight and demonstrate full commitment the state must look at upgrading the Group Insurance.
What lessons should we learn as a State from this pandemic?
This crisis has many lessons for us to learn as a country. However, the following readily come to mind:
1. It is abundantly clear that we need to engage in domestic production of essential commodities that we consume. This ranges from food for the general population to Personal Protective Equipment for health workers. It appears many essentials are imported in this country. Going forward we need to aggressively move into and invest in manufacturing and production of essential commodities. “Necessity they say is the mother of all inventions”. We have seen Obuasi Secondary Technical School lads produce an automated veronica bucket. I understand one individual is working on producing a brand of ventilator for Intensive Care purposes. The state should encourage these initiatives.
2. The pandemic has shown how fragile our health system is. The State must invest more in the health system. This pandemic has shown that there are times that one cannot travel outside the country for health care irrespective of status in society.
3. Generally, there is laxity in health screening at the points of entry into our country. This pandemic should be a wake-up call to all at the entry points, especially Port Health Authorities.
4. Working from home has become an alternative to being physically present at work in many jurisdictions. In the case of schools, we have online courses. In this era of technology, the way to go is to encourage employees to work from home, if their jobs do not require them to be physically present to discharge their duties. Schools, especially tertiary institutions should look at offering online programmes.
5. This pandemic has revealed that we have poor data on people residing in Ghana. This in many cases has made it difficult for contact tracing. We have a great deal to learn from this experience. Maybe the National Identification exercise which has been suspended when it resumes after the pandemic will help us resolve this problem.
So far; so good. As one Preacher put it, “a lot will change in the world after COVID-19”. Perhaps we may change the way we greet from handshakes to head bows. We may also look at our social and religious gatherings. We may learn to be self-reliant as developing countries than depending on aid and foreign support. Perhaps, we will learn to invest in our health systems to strengthen them than travelling outside for health care. Or perhaps there will be less international travels. We may also look at our hand washing habits as a people.
BY Farouk Adam IDDRISU