The government has commended JoyNews journalist Gary Al-Smith, for his continued efforts at public education during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ever since the first case in Ghana was announced, the sports journalist has been consistent in educating his large social media following on latest information and preventive protocols.

As fate would have it, however, Al-Smith would himself test positive in June. But rather than slow him down, the sports journalist carried the nation along his treatment process and subsequent discharge from the University of Ghana Medical Center UGMC).

On Tuesday, Minister of Information, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah recognised Al-Smith’s efforts at government’s Covid-19 Meet the Press briefing.

With government being asked to name all public officials currently suffering from the disease, Oppong Nkrumah noted that disclosing medical information remains a private matter, which the government can only encourage – but not force – its employees to do.

“The Multimedia Group, for example, comes out to say that there are a number of positive cases who are there, but only Gary Al-Smith comes out to say that he is positive, and uses it as a platform to help with public education. We applaud that.”

The nation’s attempts to battle Covid-19 have been severely hampered by the unwillingness of many in the general public to open about their status.

The situation has not been helped by public officials who have not been forthcoming, either.

“The policy of naming persons who have tested positive has not changed,” the Minister emphasized, in answer to a question posed by JoyNews Jospeh Ackah Blay, seeking clarity on whether the government could name all officials who are positive.

Oppong Nkrumah continued: “When someone tests positive, we encourage that person to voluntarily put it out. If that person instructs us to do so, we will.”

Gary’s openness about Covid-19 has widely been praised in recent weeks, with Vice President Mahamudu Bawumia telephoning to check on the Joy Sports Editor during his treatment at the UGMC.

Josephine Nkrumah, chairperson of the National Commission on Civic Education, has also noted on Joy FM’s Super Morning Show that the sports journalist’s recent anti-stigmatization messages on TV, radio and social media have greatly helped her outfit in demystifying the disease.

The NCCE has since spoken to Al-Smith on working together to change behaviours toward the disease.

In recognition of all these, Oppong Nkrumah said on Tuesday: “We encourage what [Gary] has done. And we continue to encourage persons who have tested positive to put it out there, to use it [to educate others]. But it would be unfair to ask me to stand here and name or speculate other persons [in government who’ve tested positive].”

The Multimedia Group is on record as being the first significant corporate entity, to publicly declare the existence of Covid-19 cases within its ranks.

Chief Human Resource Officer at the Multimedia Group, Nana Elegba, observed that acknowledging the existence of the disease was key in fighting the stigma.

“It was not an easy decision to make, but the management of the Group is thrilled that the government recognizes what we did. It gives us the confidence that taking a leadership role in the fight against stigma is the right thing to do, and we urge others to be open and follow suit, too” he said.

The company has also been commended by civil society for its own anti-stigmatization campaign, #StopTheStigma.

Rising cases

Currently, Ghana is experiencing the most difficult period to date during the pandemic, as the Ghana Health Service have reported 4,617 new cases over the last seven updates, which accounts for over 20% of the country’s overall case count.

Indeed, the month of June has been the most deadly, as it has accounted for nearly half of the total caseload.

At Tuesday’s briefing, the latest figures showed 891 new cases from samples tested on July 4, bringing the total confirmed cases to 21,968.