The declaration of Covid-19 as a global pandemic by Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organisation(WHO) sent shivers through the spine of many countries around the world. This follows the fast spread and contraction of the virus by people of all shades of social stratum−old, young, rich, poor and so on.

As immediate global response gathers momentum, countries have begun suspending international flights from places known to have reported high cases of infections into their respective jurisdictions. From sporting activities to international conferences have also been put on hold or cancelled to avoid the risk of further spread. To assure citizens of countries preparedness, huge sums of financial allocations have been announced by governments around the world for emergency response.

Here in Ghana, following the first two reported cases of the virus, the President via a live broadcast announced an allocation of $100 million as a sign of government’s commitment to tackling the virus head-on. A pretty good number of Ghanaians and health experts were enthused about the intervention. At the very least, it provided a certain level of assurance that our government cared about us and seeks not our death.

Further announcement was made on the 15th March, 2020 by the Ghanaian leader announcing more drastic measures such as compulsory quarantine of travellers entering the country, and closure of borders be it air, land or sea to protect Ghanaians as the reported infections have now jumped to 68 as at the time of writing this piece.

Panic, fears and apprehensions have engulfed the Ghanaian society, if not exaggerating, many are petrified as every single soul tries to adopt precautionary measures such as social distancing, self-quarantine as recommended by the WHO and Ghanaian health officials.

Social media as expected is flooded with information (at least majority of which are quite helpful), educating Ghanaians about the symptoms of Covid 19 while at the same time some expressing concerns and gaps relative to government’s interventions to as it were compelling government to do more to unease those anxieties.

Countries such as Italy, UK, India and South Africa have declared complete lockdowns; others are considering doing same meaning the world is gradually getting to a standstill as countries are avoiding welcoming others into their jurisdictions. What this Covid-19 and perhaps other previous pandemics such as Ebola have triggered is, how prepared and robust is our country’s health systems and by extension the society in protecting human lives generally?

As it stands, there is ‘travel ban’ for even the top echelon of society (high ranking public officials); meaning that should any of them gets sick, they would have no option than to be treated here (at least based on what we have been told by leadership) by the very healthcare system they have abandoned for obvious reasons.

A challenged healthcare system like ours may sound like a death sentence for many who may get infected. That said, there was also a cross-section of Ghanaians who doubted whether considering the challenges within our healthcare architecture, the allocation by government ($100 million) was adequate enough to counteract the impending danger.

Reports of a shortage of medical consumables and lack of health personnel in some areas of the country questions whether we are indeed up to the task to safeguard the most fundamental human rights (life) which is seriously under threat at the moment.

The above underscored, at least something is being done by government. Any healthcare system which assures the full realisation of the right to health is hinged on four pillars; affordability, availability, accessibility and of good quality. Any intervention by government will most likely not succeed in the absence of these safeguards.

But can we confidently say that the totality of our healthcare system can pass these four tests as Covid-19 cases soar? Then came quite a forceful campaign urging people to wash their hands with soap intermittently, use of hand sanitizers and rubbing alcohol and so on.

As someone who analyses interventions from the human rights perspective, I began asking myself, what is the implication of all these advocacies on the lives of marginalised who often times lack certain basic social services like clean water and economic resources(money) to procure such things. In other words, how have we factored them into these interventions? So for instance, I posted on my Facebook wall that at the height of Covid-19, the poor is more vulnerable.

I justified by saying that without a clean water, how can any handwashing be effective? I also queried that in the times of exorbitant prices of hand sanitizers how can the poor afford them to keep themselves safe and that of others because clearly this pandemic has evidenced once again that society is interconnected in several ways. Therefore, the safety of the marginalised is a necessary condition for the safety of all.

I further asked that, in social distancing times, what becomes of our crowded spaces such as the prisons and institutionalised care centres like orphanages and so on. Prisoners, for instance, have no option of adopting social distancing mechanisms which are at the disposal of the ‘free person’. I finally probed, how have we factored in persons living with disabilities into the various interventions?

At least, on the face of it, there appears to be none. This global challenge brings to the fore once again that as a society it is in our interest to vigorously pursue development that is more focused, coordinated, pragmatic and human rights-based.

Once society interacts with the above seemingly marginalised group of people, in situations such as these if they are ignored it becomes difficult to achieve any effective result−an outcome which makes everyone safe. The need for a functioning health system, access to basic social services and opportunities for all are a prerequisite for a successful emergency health response.

Finally, it should be emphasized that effective human rights commitment is a precondition for a prosperous society where everyone is safe and sound. After Covid-19 we should not forget to vigorously pursue human rights on all fronts, leaving no one behind.

The writer is a Human Rights researcher and works with the Ombudsman of Ghana.