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100 days of Covid pain; 95 deaths, the lockdown, fear and despair

June 23, 2020 marks 100 days since the presence of the deadly coronavirus  in Ghana.

The disease which was reported in Wuhan, China in December 2019 spread like a wildfire to nations in almost every part of the world including Ghana.

The first positive case of this global pandemic was officially reported in the country on March 13, 2020.

This was after weeks of rumours about positive cases at some health facilities including the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital.

When the Ghana Health Service finally announced that two persons had tested positive of the disease, the fear and panic among the citizenry was palpable.

Currently, over 14,500 people have been infected with the virus with 95 reported dead.

The situation, which seemed to be under control changed when Accra reported a spike in its initial cases. This spike was followed by similar recordings in the Ashanti regional capital, Kumasi and Kasoa in the Central Region.

Environmental Health offisers of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly on their way to bury a Covid-19 victim at Awudome Cemetery in Accra
Environmental Health offisers of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly lowering the casket containing remains of one of the Covid-19 victims into the grave at the Awudome Cemetery in Accra Myjoyonline: Photo // David Andoh

It was due to this that President Akufo-Addo announced a two-week partial lockdown which began on March 30, 2020 to restrict movement of people in a bid to curtail the spread of the disease in Ghana.

A principal street of the Accra Central Business District during the lockdown

The President in an address to the nation explained that the process was to allow the Ghana Health Service and its collaborating agencies, embark on contact tracing and testing aimed at curbing the spread.

ACP Kwesi Ofori of the Ghana Police Service undergoes a Covid-19 body temperature check when Accra Metropolitan Environmental Health Officers embarked on a sensitization program in Accra.
Municipal Health officers from Jaman South Municipality of the Bono Region mounted a highway checkpoint to test the temperature of passengers
Edifice of the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research.
Staff of Noguchi Memorial Institute takes coronavirus test samples.
A Covid-19 test sample delivered at Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research by Zipline drone.

Within the two weeks period, strict enforcement of the locked-down measures stipulated by the World Health Organisation (WHO) resulted in some safety protocols such as social distancing, regular hand wash and the wearing of face masks.

A trader at the temporal Jubilee Market in Takoradi and her wearing face masks to protect themselves against the pandemic.

Although the movement of people was curtailed, essential service providers like health workers, media practitioners, pharmacies, grocery shops among others were permitted to operate.

A resident of Tamale washes his hands.

Painfully the lockdown and ban on public gathering had too much impact on socio-cultural and economic sectors that some people were rendered jobless while hope and aspirations of the youths were also thwarted due to the closure of many facilities including schools.

The Lockdown

Kasoa New Market was closed down to avoid the spread of the disease.

 Many Ghanaians described their lockdown experience as traumatizing. Some say they had to deal with hunger, pain and despair among other frustrations that came with their right to movement being taken away.

To ensure social distancing in cars, commercial vehicles were asked to reduce their intake. It became an offense for more than two people to board a taxi and the security agencies did not take kindly to ignorance as an excuse.

Police and Military personnel screening passengers on Accra Kasoa road
An alleged taxi driver offender clearing weeds on Kasoa road
A taxi driver who allegedly took more 2 passengers on board was forced to clear weeds
Police and Military personnel used an Armour motorbike to block the Kasoa New Market road to screen commuters during the lockdown
One of the police checkpoints on the Kasoa road

From weeding to sweeping and picking litter from the streets, offenders were punished by personnel from the various security agencies especially the military before being asked to return to their homes.

Though it was very difficult for many residents in the lockdown communities, the most vulnerable who solely rely on their daily earnings to survive were more affected.

Some risked their lives going out to work and make a living rather than staying home and dying from hunger.

According to a police officer at a check point on the Kasoa road, most people stopped at checkpoints alleged to be going to either a hospital or market.

A police officer questions a taxi driver for none compliance of social distancing

He said failing to convince or produce evidence to that effect, usually resulted in the person being asked to go back home and this created a lot of misunderstandings between the personnel manning various checkpoints and the residents within the lockdown areas.

Madam Juliana Gasu, a 55 year old widow with three children narrates how she survived the lockdown.

Madam Gasu who sells Fante Kenkey says she run out of raw materials immediately the lockdown was announced.

Since she would not go out for fresh supply, she had to stop working. Life, therefore, became very difficult for her and her children.

According to her she made several attempts to go to the market to get the raw materials but was asked to return home.

Unfortunately, the food distribution programme carried out by the Ministry of Gender never reached her home, forcing her to rely heavily on people.

Mr S.K. Amuzu, an auto mechanic at Ngleshie Amanfro recounted his ordeal with the police patrol team.

He said he was wrongfully arrested for selling in a drinking spot close to his house.

Mr SK Amuzu

According to him he was not feeling well and was sleeping in his compound around 8;00 pm when police came to arrest him for operating a drinking spot during the lockdown.

Mr. Amuzu alleged that the police took him to a location near the GICEL Police station together with other people, where he was made to spend about seven hours before being released.

Hardship

The three-week lockdown announced by the president as part of anti coronavirus safety measures brought untold hardship to many residents within those areas.

However, an acute hunger set in when people run out of stocks they made for the initial two-week lockdown period before it was extended.

There was mad rush for food distributed by government and philanthropists all in breach of the laid down protocols.

Social distancing was strictly enforced during the exercise
Mr Eben Darko, CEO of Chillers Event Hub at Ngleshie Amfro distributed food items during the lockdown.

President announced 3 month Covid relief

Ghanaians were hard hit by the anti coronalvirus preventive measures put in place by government, so President Akufo-Addo swiftly announced a three-month free water supply in addition to a subsidized electricity bills.

Children enjoying free water supply announced by president Akuf-Addo as part of measures to control the coronavirus.

Nationwide  disinfection

Government through the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development partnered with waste management company Zoomlion Ghana Limited to embark on a nationwide disinfection of all markets across the country.

The exercise was later extended to all public and private educational intuitions across the country

Disinfection going in an office
Fumigation of Sunyani market
Personnel of Zoomlion Ghana using modern technology to disinfect the University of Ghana.
Major markets across the country were disinfected
Disinfection of public places has become crucial
An example of social distancing being display by the personnel of the Ghana Prisons Service during morning devotion
Anti coronavirus preventive message displayed at Pills Pharmacy shop at Kokomlemle
At Kokomlmle in Accra social distancing has become part of everyday life of the residents.
The temporary created market at Jubilee Park in Takoradi in the Western Region is arguably the first social distant compliant market in Ghana.
Passengers onboard this truck captured in Karaga in the Northern Region say they do not believe the existence of Covid-19.
Some times social distancing compliance in security forces is a challenge
A scene of none compliance of social distancing at Kasoa market in the Central Region

Politics in covid : As 2020 general elections draw near, some politicians took advantage of the situation to advertise their campaign posters on each hand washing basin known as Veronica Bucket that they donated.

Cassiel Ato Forson, NDC MP Ajumako Enyan Essiam.
Hon Henry Quartey , NPP MP for Ayawaso Central
Abdul Raman Tubaz, NDC Parliamentary candidate for Ayawaso Central in Accra
Joseph Cudjoe , NPP MP for Effia Constituency in the Western Region

WHO’s advice

Though there has been an intensive drug trial within the global scientific community aiming at providing a solution to the word’s deadliest health crisis, WHO has urged adherence to the Covid-19 safety protocols which include social distancing, regular hand wash with soap under running water and wearing of face mask when going to places

The time has come Ghanaians should take Covid-19 safety protocols serious to stay safe.