KCCR researcher warns of likely rise in COVID-19 cases after eased restrictions
Dr. Michael Owusu - KCCR
A virologist at the Kumasi Centre for Collaborative Research (KCCR), Dr. Michael Owusu has warned of a possible hike in COVID-19 cases that could overwhelm their testing centre as well as others.
His comments come on the back of the easing of restrictions on social and religious gatherings by the President, Nana Akufo-Addo in his 10th address to the nation on Sunday, May 31, 2020.
Dr. Michael Owusu, who has been working on coronavirus for over a decade, says this could cause an outpour in COVID-19 cases in the country on the basis that some people may not strictly adhere to the protocols following the easing of restrictions. This, he believes, could further endanger others and cause a spread.
According to him, attention should be on how cases would be detected early enough and managed to ensure they do not result in deaths.
“Once people are moving out and then we keep easing these activities, there is a possibility that some people may not entirely adhere to these measures and therefore, the number of cases may go up. Increasing infections is something we have to live with. We have to know that the numbers will always go up but the ability to pick them early, to isolate them, to manage them so it doesn’t result in death is what we have to put our efforts in so we can reduce deaths that come with some of these surges.”
Further speaking, he called for the government’s support in various testing centres to boost their capacity. He also called for other testing centres to be established to test as many samples as possible in case there is a surge in cases.
Also, he said that the government should fast track processes to put in place, rapid diagnostic tests ready to supplement the already existing testing ones.
“I think that easing restrictions should be part of our cycle. You can’t forever lockdown. You cannot forever sit home. It’s something that would have to come which is what has started. But easing restrictions must go along with measures- measures in terms of the preventive measures, surveillance measures, contact tracing measures and testing measures. I think that the testing capacity is still low and I will wish that once the restriction easing has started, we should gradually increase the number of testing sites and supply more reagents so once there are surges, this can be managed. I think that the testing capacity we have now, we are still limited.”
“It’s possible when the surges happen, we will not be able to test the population. I think this is what we have to focus our attention on. I will call on the government to work quickly on the rapid diagnostic tests- the RDTs, so they can support the PCR testing we have been doing so that we don’t put too much pressure on the molecular testing sites that we have in the country,” he said.
Also, the Director of KCCR, Prof. Richard Odame Philips insisted that the Centre currently is not overwhelmed as they can test about 30,000 samples in a month. He says they are in constant touch with authorities to monitor the number of cases recorded daily to receive resources to correspond to that.
“Usually, we talk. We keep on engaging with public health authorities to monitor the numbers that are coming and depending on the numbers, we get reagents from Accra and then we do the testing. So, for now, I think we are okay. We are running the test and we haven’t run out yet. So I think we still have a positive outlook,” he added.
However, he is of the hope that the country may not experience a surge in cases, only if people comply with all COVID-19 safety protocols issued by health authorities.