The Conundrum of Lifting Coronavirus Lock-down in Ghana

The Conundrum of Lifting  Coronavirus Lock-down in Ghana
  • Ghana has so far confirmed 1,042 infections, with nine deaths, from the novel coronavirus.
  • The country of around 30 million has ramped up testing and checked over 68,000 samples.
  • The decision to impose restrictions on movement was backed by the data at hand and empirical facts
  • The overall number of COVID-19 cases would be relatively high, but there would be relatively fewer severe cases, as susceptible and immune-compromised people would be shielde

 

Ghana on Monday discontinued a three-week lockdown on two key regions as the West African nation’s leader lifted the confinement based on a satisfactory report on the health of the nation and its “severe” impact on the poor and vulnerable.

President Nana Akufo-Addo announced the lifting of restrictions on movement around the capital Accra and second region Kumasi in a televised address.

The President said that the move was backed by health parastatals to undertake aggressive contact tracing of infected persons, the enhancement of our capacity to test, the expansion in the numbers of our treatment and isolation centres and the adverse effect the Lockdown was having on the poor.

The news comes against the backdrop of a surge in numbers of persons confirmed to have tested positive to the virus. As of 19th April 2020, Ghana has 1042 confirmed cases, 99 have recovered, 934 are said to be active cases and 9 deaths.

The president, however, allayed fears and reassured the public that his decisions were backed by data and empirical facts

"The decision to impose restrictions on movement was backed by the data at hand, and our next course of action, again, is backed by data and by science. Indeed, all that Government is doing is intended to achieve five (5) key objectives – limit and stop the importation of the virus; contain its spread; provide adequate care for the sick; limit the impact of the virus on social and economic life; and inspire the expansion of our domestic capability and deepen our self-reliance."

He however cautioned the public not be complacent

I must make it clear, at the outset, that lifting these restrictions does not mean we are letting our guard down. All other measures are still firmly in place. For the avoidance of doubt, the earlier measures announced on Wednesday, 15th March, which have been extended, are still very much in force and have not been relaxed. I am demanding even greater adherence to these measures, he said.

 

Is Ghana Caught between a Health and an Economic crisis?

Various countries around the world are wondering when and how to ease coronavirus lockdowns, though the World Health Organization (WHO) is warning that should be done slowly and only when there is the capacity to isolate cases and trace contacts.

Leaders are faced with intense pressure reopening the economy, caught between salvaging an economy in the aftermath of a pandemic  and stemming a surge of diseases they must be resolute in their decision but are haunted by its repercussion.

But the risks of relaxing too much, too soon, are very real, and medical experts have warned against rushing to lift restrictions prematurely, potentially sparking a more deadly second wave and undermining the hard-won gains so far.

On the economic front, the crisis in jobs and livelihoods could be even greater. After two decades of steady economic progress, the pandemic could tip Africa into its first recession in 25 years.

 As many as one-third of all jobs in Africa could be affected. Africa’s high degree of informality and relatively low levels of social protection exacerbate the risk. - Analyst

In a McKinsey report titled  ''Finding Africa’s path: Shaping bold solutions to save lives and livelihoods in the COVID-19 crisis.”

The report analyzes two main scenarios and its mitigating effect

In a scenario of full lockdown, the country would potentially reduce the number of COVID-19 cases to 10 percent of what would be expected in the baseline, but economic activity would be greatly curtailed, falling to 30 percent of the baseline.

 In contrast, in a shielding scenario in which Ghana has adopted, mandatory quarantine would be established for the people most at risk of mortality from the virus, while the general population would be subject to no restrictions beyond guidelines to practice safe physical distancing. In this scenario, the overall number of COVID-19 cases would be relatively high, but there would be relatively fewer severe cases, as susceptible and immune-compromised people would be shielded. Economic activity, at 95 percent of the baseline, would be far less affected.

Salvaging Ghana’s economy must have played a role to a large extent than data in easing the Lockdown or the repercussion of an extension, who else shares my conundrum?