Responding To COVID-19 Outbreak In Ghana: Assessing People’s Views On Humanitarian, Political And Security Aspects
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that range from the common cold to MERS coronavirus, which is Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus and SARs, Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus. Coronaviruses are circulating in animals and some of these coronaviruses have the capability of transmitting between animals and humans, which is referred to as spillover event (WHO, 2020).
The COVID-19 virus affects different people in different ways, is a respiratory disease and most infected people will develop mild to moderate symptoms. Most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without any special medical interventions. Around 1 out of every 6 people who get COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and develop difficulty breathing. Older people (over 60 years old) have a higher risk of developing severe disease and death and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are also more likely to develop a serious illness that will require timely medical care (WHO, 2020c).
On 31st December 2019 the World Health Organization (WHO) China Country Office was informed of cases of pneumonia of unknown cause detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province of China. On 7th January 2020, the causative pathogen was identified as a novel coronavirus (2019- nCoV) and human-to-human transmission was reported soon after. On 12th February 2020, the novel coronavirus was named severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) while the disease associated with it is now referred to as coronavirus disease COVID-19 (MoH, 2020).
This Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), is the latest virus to cause global health panic (Nuwagira & Muzoora, 2020). Studying the dynamics of a newly emerged and rapidly growing infectious disease outbreak, such as COVID-19, is important but challenging because of the limited amount of data available on the virus. In addition, the unavailability of diagnostic reagents early in the outbreak changed the surveillance intensity, case definitions and overwhelmed healthcare systems (CDC, 2020).
The index case occurred on December 8, 2019, in Wuhan, China. Since then, cases have been exported to other Chinese cities, as well as internationally, highlighting concern of a global outbreak (Edrada et al., 2020). Because of the exportations of the novel coronavirus 2019 in the People's Republic of China to other countries, WHO Director-General under the International Health Regulations (IHR) (2005) regarding the outbreak convened its second meeting, the Emergency Committee which took place on Thursday, 30th January 2020, from 13:30 to 18:35 Geneva time (CEST). The Committee gave advice to the WHO Director-General; Dr. Tedros Adhanon Ghebreyesus who then made the final decision and determined the outbreak as Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) and subsequently declaring the COVID-19 as a pandemic on 11th March 2020 (WHO, 2020d).
As of 19th April 2020 (11:51 am), globally, 2,241,359 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 15,551 deaths. Out of these cases, the African region has a total of 13,892 confirmed cases with 628 deaths (WHO, 2020a). Ghana confirmed its first two cases of COVID-19 on 12th March 2020, when two people returned from Norway and Tukey. But as at 20th April 2020 (11:54 am) Ghana's total confirmed cases are 1042 with 9 deaths (GHS, 2020).
Ghana's response to the COVID-19 pandemic is not entirely different from other country's but the context, content and process of implementation may vary form one state to the another. Government is the key stakeholder in the implementation of public health measures outlined by WHO with technical advice and support from Ministry of Health and Ghana health Service to control the outbreak. The decision taken so far can be assessed by categorizing them into: Humanitarian, Political and Security.
In the fight against COVID-19, WHO has outlined three general humanitarian principles that's Humanity, Neutrality and Impartiality. Humanity means the government has to prevent and alleviate human suffering and must do so by protecting and respecting the life, health and dignity of all Ghanaians. Data collected online (online survey) from 163 responses showed that (56.8%) agreed that the government is preventing and alleviating human suffering caused by the outbreak, (20.4%) were neutral, (14.8%) strongly agreed, (5.6%) disagreed and (2.5%) strongly disagreed.
Neutrality means the government must take no side in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. The same data reviewed that (42.6%) agreed that the government is taking side in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. (17.3%) strongly agreed, (15.4%) were neutral, (14.8%) disagreed and (9.9%) strongly disagreed. Finally, impartiality, meaning the government must fight the COVID-19 pandemic without discrimination. (39.5%) disagreed that the government is discriminating in the attempt to fight the outbreak. (35.8%) strongly disagreed, (13.0%) were neutral, (9.9%) agreed and only (1.9%) strongly agreed.
As many countries are facing the unprecedented challenges from COVID-19 the tension on governments is extreme and the impact on people all over the world continues to grow. Leaders around the world are taking laborious decision to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. The Ghana government has not derailed from this exercise, some decision has been taken which may affect some people obviously. (29.0%) disagreed that Ghana's preparedness during COIV-19 pandemic before the 1st case was reported in the country was satisfactory. (26.5%) were neutral, (25.3%) strongly disagreed, (16.0%) agreed and (3.1%) strongly agreed. (62.3%) strongly agreed that the Government should have closed Ghana's borders earlier than it was done. (29.6%) also agreed, (3.7%) disagreed, (2.5%) remain neutral and only (1.9%) strongly disagreed.
On the closure of school by the government, (54.9%) strongly agreed it was necessary to close all school to stop the spread of the outbreak in Ghana. Also, (41.4%) agreed, (1.9%) strongly disagreed, (1.2%) disagreed and only (0.6%) were neutral. Moreover, (55.6%) strongly agreed that it was necessary for the government to close all churches and mosques as it was done to stop the spread of the outbreak in Ghana. (40.7%) also agreed, (1.9%) were neutral, (1.2%) disagreed with that decision and only (0.6%) strongly disagree. Finally, on the political aspect, with specific to address to public and media briefing (50.0%) agreed that the government has provided accurate, credible and timely information to the public about COVID-19 outbreak and its control. (21.6%) strongly agreed, (15.4%) disagreed, neutral was (9.3%) and (3.7%) strongly disagreed.
On March 31, 2020 Ghanaian Times published that more than 37,500 police and military personnel have been deployed to restricted areas to help enforce measures instituted to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the country. They comprised of 35,000 police personnel and 2,000 military personnel. (50.0%) strongly agreed that the deployment of security personnel to enforce restriction of movement at lock-down areas is a good decision. (46.3%) agreed, (2.5%) were neutral and only (0.6%) strongly disagreed and disagreed with that decision. Also, (45.1%) agree that the security personnel deployed to lock-down areas to enforce restriction of movement have performed their duties to my satisfaction. (20.4%) were neutral, (17.3%) disagreed, (13.6%) strongly agreed and (3.7%) strongly disagreed.
This pandemic has challenged many nations including developed and developing countries sense of invulnerability, self-confidence, public infrastructure and their definitions to initial response to outbreak situations. However, this could be a wake-up call for state to develop a comprehensive plan on disease outbreaks, upgrade in disease surveillance and investigation, enhance public health laboratory capability and develop effective risk communication capacity.
Together we can defeat this pandemic, be part of the team where ever you to combat this pandemic.
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WHO. (2020d). https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/30-01-2020-statement-on-the-second-meeting-of-the-international-health-regulations-(2005)-emergency-committee-regarding-the-outbreak-of-novel-coronavirus-(2019-ncov).
Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not neccessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."