Govt commits additional $2m to combat COVID-19 —Health Minister

Health Minister, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, has assured that the government is doing everything possible to prevent and protect [the citizenry] against the outbreak and spread of the Corona Virus in Ghana.

“Public health emergency management structures at all levels – national, regional, district – have been activated and placed on high alert.

“Alerts have been sent to all regions to activate Public Health Emergency Management Committees to initiate preparedness activities and enhance surveillance for the respiratory disease,” he told Parliament in Accra yesterday.

The deadly disease, codenamed COVID-19, first diagnosed in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019, has infected over 90,000 people with 3,085 deaths recorded worldwide.

The respiratory disease which has since spread to dozens of countries has been declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern by the World Health Organisation.

Four African countries – Nigeria, Egypt, Algeria and Senegal – have all confirmed cases in the last few days, raising concerns over Ghana’s preparedness to tackle the disease should it be detected here. 

But briefing Parliament on Ghana’s preparedness, Mr Agyeman-Manu said the government, apart from preventive measures, had voted additional US$2 million to the GH¢2.5 million announced earlier.

According to Mr Agyeman-Manu, the Member for Dormaa Central, other measures include strengthening surveillance at the country’s points of entry to ensure that no infected person slipped through.

Passengers, he said, on arrival were being screened using thermal scanning, adding that staff at the points of entry had been sensitised on case detection and infection prevention and control.

“A holding room has been identified at the Kotoka International Airport to be utilised to hold COVID-19 suspected cases,” he said.

On logistics, the Health Minister said 5,000 personal protective equipment had been procured and distributed to major health facilities and points of entry with additional equipment being procured.

To be able to educate the country on the deadly virus, the minister said key messages and educational materials on the disease had been developed and disseminated with jingles being developed and regional risk communication and social mobilisation trainings underway.

He urged the public to observe precautionary measures, including regular hand washing with soap, avoid handshakes and keep a distance of, at least, one meter from a person who shows signs of fever, cough and difficulty in breathing.

The Ranking Member on the Health Committee, Kwabena Mintah-Akandor, said the government’s commitment was questionable and unsatisfactory.

To him, there were gaps in the WHOs protocols, including non-availability of funds and urged the Finance Ministry to release funds to enable the ministry to undertake the earmarked activities.

“We need the highest level of commitment. By now, awareness creation should be ongoing. Mr Minister, we must be seeing what you have done by now and not you telling us what you are doing,” he said.

Ledzokuku Member, Bernard Oko Boye, meanwhile, has called for calm because in his view the disease is not as deadly as it has been made to look.

He said similar outbreaks like the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome had 30 and 20 per cent fatality rate compared to two per cent of COVID-19. Ghana, he added, had what it took to handle COVID-19.

BY JULIUS YAO PETETSI

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