My heart is bleeding and fear lurks as I type my observations in Ghana’s quest to fight the novel COVID-19 pandemic sweeping menacingly across the borders of the world.
Africans and for that matter Ghanaians as always have proven our incompetence and unskillfulness in planning and handling crises again. Almost in every case we resort to prayer as a first and last solution to every problem which in itself is not bad.
However, in the scheme of things, we cannot in anyway blame God for not responding sooner to the cry of Africans and Ghanaians. Here is why; the pandemic began in far away China, spread throughout the rest of Asia, the mainland of Europe, America, the Middle East before the frontiers of Africa and Ghana. This was after two clear months. The rest of the world provided us some lessons on preventing and controlling the pandemic. We had African brothers and sisters around the world who were charitable enough to warn us regarding the mistakes some countries had made concerning the disease as well as best practices in tackling the pandemic head-on.
Furthermore, the WHO sternly warned Africans to brace up for the pandemic so we had the benefit of hindsight. We saw evidence of people and countries plagued by the pandemic on live TV with devastating effect including China, Italy, Spain, USA and Iran, among others. If these were not enough of God’s intervention and answer to our prayers then I wonder how else God should be saving and helping Africans. Just maybe, we were idling but expecting God to tell us through prophecy that we should close our borders and take all the necessary measures to keep safe before we acted.
In the particular case of Ghana, we acted too slowly and nonchalantly because we had all our West African neighbours falling victims to COVID-19 but we couldn’t still shut off our borders in time to ward off the pandemic.
Ghana’s handling has been poor but we are unashamedly patting ourselves on the back amidst all the faltering.
Apart from detention of foreign arrivals for mandatory 14-day quarantine to ascertain whether or not they had the virus, Ghana’s approach to handling the situation has been largely poor.
The first major mistake came on the back of the president’s message to usher in the partial lockdown. One, the announcement came in too late. It was done after 11 PM on Friday when the implementation was to start the following Monday. Not many people could stay up late to listen to the announcement. Majority of Ghanaians woke up Saturday morning to the news that there was going to be a LOCKDOWN on Monday.
This threw many people into a panic mood because they didn’t understand what the partial lockdown entailed. People then thronged our markets in frenzy to buy to stock up for the two-week lockdown in total recklessness.
Others for fear of being infected in Accra or Kumasi and for economic reasons, migrated to their towns and villages in the hinterlands. These escaping migrants did not know their status in relation to COVID-19. This is where lost her control over the spread and containment measures.
Unfortunately, radio stations were not able to help because on weekends not many of them do major programs to have explained it to Ghanaians. Government could have engaged the media and the information services for effective dissemination of the information on the lockdown about a week to the time but that wasn’t done.
Worse still, even government intervention to feed the vulnerable groups is another fertile ground for the spread of the virus. Recipients troop to particular centres for the food distribution generally disregarding social distance protocols.
Lastly, the management of the pandemic at the health centres is another major source of worry. The testing centres are too few and too far apart. This delays and complicates testing of suspected cases.
Now that community spread is rife all health centres across Ghana should be put on red alert and resourced adequately to handle potential cases. All health centres should have isolation centres to quarantine positive patients and suspected cases identified through contact tracing. All regional and district hospitals should have testing centres for rapid response to suspected cases.
Government must necessarily and as a matter of urgency engage all media houses for effective education in local dialects. When citizens are better informed on the pandemic it will lessen government’s burden in shouldering the costs of healthcare, social intervention and economic incentives or packages.
In all of these, government and Ghanaians should not lose sight of the fact that post COVID-19 Ghana would be nightmarish or promising depending on the decisions we are making now.
The best package government can give all Ghanaians is not freebies but proper management of the pandemic. We need to move from tactics to concrete national strategy for dealing with this albatross on our slender necks.
Writer: CLEMENT ADJEI SARFO (THE CRUSADER)