The Dean, Faculty of Education Foundation of the University of Cape Coast (UCC), Prof. Eric Nyarko-Sampson has called for the scaling-up of counseling services for both victims of COVID-19 and members of their respective communities.
This according to him was the surest way of stemming the tide of stigmatisation and spreading calm among the citizenry.
“Contracting the virus is not a death sentence, therefore people should refrain from stigmatising persons suspected to have contracted the illness and desist as well from promoting fear and panic,” he added.
Prof. Nyarko-Sampson made the call in an interview with the Ghanaian Times in Cape Coast.
The interview was on how the nation would offer psychological and counselling services during this critical period in terms of the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He indicated that even though there were clinical psychologists and other psychologists deployed to offer some support to the people, there was the need to scale-up with the inclusion of counselling services.
Individuals and communities, he indicated needed to be counselled and educated on issues relating to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“People must see victims of the virus as people who need support rather than stigmatisation, if not we will only worsen their plight and also trigger the spread of the pandemic,” he emphasised.
Prof. Nyarko-Sampson, who is also the chairman of the National Teaching Council, explained fear and trauma were the main reasons for which some of the suspects run away from the quarantine centres.
That, he said, was also fuelled by the level of stigmatisation in relation to those who test positive for COVID-19.
“It is important for us to find a way of assisting those who have been quarantined due to the fact that they came in contact with an infected person or those who are in the various isolation centres for testing positive for COVID-19” he said.
He urged the public to refrain from stigmatising those who test positive as well as their relatives, explaining that, such behaviour would only worsen the infection rate.
Prof. Nyarko-Sampson further called for extensive education on COVID-19 by the various stakeholders in the country in order to create public awareness on the pandemic.
He admonished Ghanaians to adhere to the established health protocols namely, washing of hands with soap under running water for at least 20 seconds, use of sanitisers and social distancing.
He called for a clear translation of the term “social distancing” in the various local languages for easy understanding.
Prof. Nyarko-Sampson further expressed concern about the attitude of residents in some communities protesting against the use of facilities within their jurisdiction as quarantine centres.
Such action, he noted, was detrimental to the fight against the pandemic in the country and ought to be stopped.
He commended the media for their work in educating Ghanaians on the pandemic but was quick to state that, a number of the reportage on the virus only created fear and panic among the populace.
He also called for continuous training for media practitioners, especially for community broadcasting stations for accurate and timely dissemination of information.
From David O. Yarboi-Tetteh, Cape Coast