One month into Ghana’s COVID-19 post-lockdown, cases surge by 585%

One month into Ghana’s COVID-19 post-lockdown, cases surge by 585%
  • 1,042 confirmed cases, 99 recovered, 934 active and 9 deaths before lockdown lift
  • To 6,096 confirmed positive cases, 1,773 recoveries, 4,292 active and 31 deaths one-month post-lockdown.
  • Enhanced contact tracing and testing which is ongoing has resulted in an increased number of confirmed COVID-19 cases

 

It has been a month since the partial lockdown sanction was lifted. Although the lifting was met with mixed feelings with a section of the public throwing caution to the wind and jubilating on the street and not giving a care to social distancing, a rather somber group mused over the potential can of worms the directive had opened in hope of returning life to normalcy. What the former failed to realize was that the end of the lockdown wasn’t a declaration on the end of the virus.

The government and individuals were both in oblivion as they grappled with the prospect of what can and cannot be done and also what constitutes the new normal and unfurling of business operations. Soon, businesses, streets, restaurants and shops crept back to life, with warily hopeful eyes to what the future might bring.

With new measures on mandatory wearing of facial masks in all public places, half-full buses, new shift pattern at factories and beefed up surveillance on social distancing, easing of restrictions were litmus tests to ascertain the extent of compliance and assimilations of requirements on the general public.

Steadily, cases rose to new heights from 1,042 confirmed cases, 99 recovered, 934 active and 9 deaths before lockdown lift to 6,096 confirmed positive cases, 1,773 recoveries, 4,292 active and 31 deaths one-month post-lockdown. Many began to question whether the stay-at-home could have suppressed and helped contain the spread of COVID-19.

 

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Initially, when news first broke of the penetration of the virus in Ghana on March 12, it seemed unreal as some perceived it to be nothing but a slight sprinkle because the turbulent storm was out there at the epicenter, Wuhan. While others chose to believe it was a hoax or perhaps a dry joke by an ill-humored ‘self-acclaimed journalist’, it became believable enough when more information on the alleged access of the virus was validated by governmental outlets.

For a country like Ghana, it has relatively handled the virus ‘well’ as this is the first of its kind in being affected by a pandemic of this scale. That notwithstanding, containment in crisis management is vital for any organization or country, and one is forced to argue that the government has been belated in its efforts as it only reacted to a gradual rise in cases.

For a country like Germany which became the first big country to ease restrictions by opening shops and car showrooms, they realized a week after the easing of restrictions that the rate of infections edged up by 1% before dropping back the next day. France on the other hand, one of the hardest hit countries easing plan started on May 11 with the opening of junior schools’, small museums all with strict social distancing as non-essential trips of more than 100km are banned.

Based on these results, one may question why the staggering surge in Ghana’s case as issues of communication and language barrier, obstinacy in adhering to social distancing and peoples lack of trust in the existence of the faceless virus, thereby creating a sense of invincibility to its destruction. One can only speculate on the reasons of the spike in the 585% cases of the virus.

 

Communication gap in educating citizens on the virus

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As snippets of conversations and rumors hovered on possible lockdowns then, social media became the contingency for citizens to be abreast with the happenings, even though the information on these platforms became rigged with fake news.

When the possibility became an apparent reality in a partial lockdown, the nation was frenzied as panic buying and people from hotspots communities thronged to less densely populated and unaffected regions, carrying the virus with them. Language barrier and lack of comprehension of directives were an often cited inciter as ‘authorities’ on the subject began to give their interpretation of what the government orders meant.

Disconcerting videos circulated with people proudly exhibiting their ignorance of the virus and mispronunciation and misspelling of its attendant factors. To ensure people remained vigilant and not panic, a government’s comprehensive guide in disseminating information to all and sundry in various dialects and tongue was the best way to go as politicization of an unfriendly virus makes it difficult for citizens to know who to trust and what to believe.

Effective communication began with media outlets and other state institutions and organizations wading in to help by sensitizing the general public on hand washing, sanitizing of hands, social distancing and venturing out only by necessity in reducing spread.

Although we have a long way to go even in a post-lockdown phase, there’s been a drastic improvement. In order to be trusted, you need to be open, honest and transparent and the President did exactly that by publicly addressing the stance of the nation in fighting the pandemic amidst economic downturn, job losses and insecurities, via the provision of stimulus packages and waiver on utility payments to ameliorate the situation.

 

Social distancing and ban on social gathering

SPIKE

The normally bustling and highly populated business streets in the capital gradually became a ghost town with the effect of the partial lockdown. As churches, pubs, mosques, schools and social gathering ban issued social distancing tickets; police and military agent were deployed to ensure compliance by recalcitrant flouters.

Social distancing became evident as residents voluntarily stayed home with a few essential workers plying the street on their way to work and mass gatherings were cancelled. As the economic atmosphere became saturated with a call for the lifting of lockdown for businesses to operate and workers to resume due to depleted funds, the government yielded to quell public anxiety, with the general rule of thumb being to exercise caution, wear mandatory face mask, and practice social distancing which necessitated public transport to revise the sitting arrangement of passengers.

 

How effective has post-lockdown regulations been?

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Enhanced contact tracing and testing which is ongoing has resulted in an increased number of confirmed COVID-19 cases, but the increment as iterated by the Vice President Dr. Mahamadu Bawumia is only a reflection of the country’s ability to rise to the occasion as it had conducted 37,954 as at 11th April.

These tests ranked the country among the top twenty nations in the world and amongst the top in Africa who are testing COVI-19 per capita. On resumption of business activities, one person infected 533 people with COVID-19 at a fish factory, and this incident raises a lot of concern on the level of preparedness by organizations in their care for their human resource. 

Questions on how impulsive the lifting of partial lockdown also became a topical discussion, as measures have been touted as a trial and error. In analyzing the effectiveness of post-lockdown measures based on this data, it may seem ominous but in the same vein reveals the subtle creeping nature of the virus in communities by virtue of the extensive tracing and testing and the not so invasive approach in public education can be changed by being more forceful in approach.

Countries like China, Singapore and Taiwan are what one might call veterans in the game as they’ve had an appreciable experience with past outbreak such as SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), a close cousin to the novel virus we’re facing today.

These countries have had the privilege of such viral takeover as dress rehearsal and it has positioned them in effectively containing the virus. These countries have experience and remnants of automatic sanitizer dispensers, command centers and hospitals from the previous scourge, whereas Ghana is experiencing such for the first time.

There has been contention in the country over whether government’s action was ill-fated due to the growing numbers after lockdown, but even in countries like Singapore and China who seemed to have the virus under control with no new cases, consequently easing restrictions on maneuverings, they have had a new wave of cases and flare ups.

New Zealand is the latest lodestar in the fight against the virus due to its zero tolerance approach and aggressive management of cases.

There’s no widespread undetected community transmission in New Zealand. We have won the battle, but we must remain vigilant in keeping it that way”, words from New Zealand’s President further buttresses the fact that, no country can boast of completely getting rid of the virus and dismissing new cases from springing up for now.

Ghana still has to learn the ropes of being proactive with better surveillance, faster testing and education on virus and robust healthcare system. Being also equipped by focusing on the harsh economic realities, the financially vulnerable who survives on a daily basis must endure and solving them, will likely stall progression of the virus.

Taking a leaf out of New Zealand’s book by “opening up the economy, but not opening up people’s social life by bringing too many people into expanded family bubbles” even in various workplaces and working environment can make the after lockdown experience a memorable one.