OUR COVID CONTROL MEASURES HAVE BEEN COMPROMISED

Quite frankly, I am not happy about the reopening of educational institutions at this time.

I am, of course, not the most qualified person to cultivate views on that subject, since I am not a trained scientist.

But I can tell when the scientists are uneasy but feel unable to take the public fully into their confidence, for fear of causing a panic. The trouble about a panic, though, is that it will occur if certain factors favour its doing so.

In the past few days (until the President gave us an update on Sunday, 17 January 2021) social media has been inundated with hints that the Covid-19 situation is worse than is being portrayed by the Ministry of Health.

There were vivid descriptions, some no doubt exaggerated, of the alleged inability of hospitals and clinics to cope with the situation they were facing. The emphasis was all on the effects of a breakdown in the 

observance, by large sections of our populace, of the protocols laid down for Covid-19 prevention, and whose relative acceptance by us

had saved us from a worse outbreak of the disease than in some countries.

Face masks were becoming a things of the past. Sanitisers had vanished from some public places that formerly offered them. 

So bad did the situation seem to be that the Ghana Medical Association issued a public statement drawing attention to some of the anomalies it had observed in the combat against Covid-19. Some powerful individuals in the medical community also made their views known to the public. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health itself stayed silent, adding to the widespread impression in the country that the authorities might be hiding unpleasant facts from the public. The more cynical elements in the society concluded – and propagated the view – that with the election was over, Ministers and officials were too preoccupied with the retention, or otherwise, of their positions in government to worry about such matters as keeping the public informed on what was happening with regard to Covid-19.

Fortunately, the President must have got strong wind of this public disaffection, for his broadcast did not quibble but went straight to the point. He said:

QUOTE “When I delivered Update No. 21 some two weeks ago, I urged all of us to continue adhering to the enhanced hygiene and mask-wearing protocols that have served us well, and which led us to the situation where we were witnessing a gradual decline in the number of active cases.

However, since that time, we have seen an upsurge in the number of active cases. [The number of active cases has risen] from a little over nine hundred (900), to one thousand, nine hundred and twenty-four (1,924).”

This meant the figure had more than doubled! The President went on:

QUOTE: “Our COVID-19 treatment centres have gone from having zero patients to now being full. [This is] because of the upsurge in infections. Particularly worrying is the fact that the Ghana Health Service is recording, on the average, two hundred (200) new cases of COVID infections daily.

The number of patients requiring hospitalisation and intensive care is rising. The number of severe cases, which stood at eighteen (18) a week ago, has increased sharply to one hundred and twenty (120). Two weeks ago, there was no critical case, we now have thirty-three (33) in our treatment facilities. 

Again, according to statistics from the Ghana Health Service, the considerable number of persons who are severely ill are, surprisingly, relatively youthful persons, with no previous underlying health conditions. The number of confirmed deaths has increased, sadly, from three hundred and thirty-eight (338) persons, to three hundred and fifty-two (352) within the period.”UNQUOTE 

The question is this: why did the Ghana Medical Service, upon observing the upsurge in the occurrence of the disease, wait for a number of days – until the President’s address – before telling the public what was happening? 

You see, in times of emergencies such as pandemics, it is dangerous to allow the slightest information vacuum to occur, for as sure as the sun rises, the vacuum will be filled. But in filling it, people will insert their own prejudices, ignorant conceptions and even political opinions. These uninformed pieces of information will be swallowed by the populace, and psychologically (at any rate) the very panic which officialdom wished to evade by remaining silent, would be created – with additional “inflation”. 

It is to be hoped that the Ministry of Health will not allow such a hiatus in the flow of necessary information to occur again in the country. For it is simply unrealistic to imagine that when the number of active cases has risen from 900 to 1,924, the society won’t get to know that fact and be frightened by it. Indeed, if the agitation against the reopening of schools becomes irresistible, the fault should be laid at the door of those terrible two weeks of silence. 

The President also told us that 

QUOTE: “Recent genomic sequencing undertaken by [Ghanaian] scientists has established that some arriving passengers tested positive for new variants of COVID-19. These passengers have all been isolated. Furthermore, work is ongoing to determine the presence and extent of spread of the new variants in the general population.

Detailed investigations of the cases” (he added) “indicate that, apart from arriving passengers at our airport who tested positive, infected persons have recent histories of attending parties, weddings, end of year office programmes, family get-togethers, and funerals. At these gatherings, most of them abandoned the use of the masks and were engaged in actions that led to them contracting the virus.” UNQUOTTE 

At this current rate, whereby thirteen (13) out of the sixteen (16) regions have recorded active cases, Ghana’s healthcare infrastructure will be “overwhelmed”, the President warned. He had therefore “instructed the Inspector General of Police to direct officers, men and women of the Police Service to ensure the rigorous enforcement of the law on mask-wearing at all public places and in public transport. They are also to ensure the closure of all night clubs, pubs, cinemas and beaches that may be operating in defiance of the law. They will be assisted by the other security agencies, if need be.”

The President urged persons in market places, workplaces, and operators of public transport must conduct their activities in accordance with the hygiene and safety protocols. 

The wearing of masks in these places is mandatory”, he declared. “Regulatory agencies will undertake random checks to ensure conformity with COVID-19 rules. Should any facility or institution fail to comply with these directives, its activities will be immediately prohibited, and appropriate sanctions applied.”

As I was concluding this article, the terrible news reached me that the National Security Security Coordinator, Mr Joshua Kyeremeh, had died in the early hours of Monday, 18 January, 2021. He had held the post since 2017. My condolences go to his family and colleagues. 

Nothing could add more weight to the President’s very serious words of 17 January 2021, than this tragic loss hi and his Government have suffered.

BY CAMERON DUODU

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