We have reached a critical stage in our fight against COVID-19 where decisions that will be made will make the difference between disaster and salvation for the people of Ghana.
This is a wicked challenge with no easy solutions but thankfully we have some examples from around the world to learn from.
The measures announced by the government are in the right direction but we need to step it up if we are to achieve the desired outcome of controlling the spread of the disease within Ghana.
Measures like border closures, travel restrictions and enforced quarantine for travelers from COVID-19 countries-at the expense of the state- would have sufficed initially when we had no cases in the country. As is the situation now, we are seeing examples of community transmission and this changes the dynamics significantly.
Our already struggling health care system is in no way prepared for an epidemic of this nature. This pandemic is quickly becoming an acid test of each country’s quality of healthcare, governance and social capital.
In my humble opinion, a total lockdown immediately is our only viable option to avert a catastrophe- plus lots of prayer and prudent planning/actions along the lines of what Grenada (Zero cases as of today), has done.
It is a weighty decision that must be taken at the time when most people would think it is an overreaction; however, the consequences of delay are devastating, brutal and unforgiving.
The communication drive must continue so that all levels of society come to appreciate the seriousness of the threat and the necessity for tough measures to be taken urgently.
For a country with inadequate resources, it is by confronting our reality, being candid with ourselves, radical national mobilization of human/intellectual, material, social and financial resources and its prudent application that would save us from the worst-case scenario- an out-of-control outbreak. Who would have ever thought that great nations like China, Italy and the United States with more advanced health care systems and resources would be reeling from this pandemic?
We also have positive examples in the likes of Singapore, South Korea, and other less popular countries, who are succeeding in the fight against this threat. The common themes that run through the policies of those that are successful are
i) Early imposition of travel restrictions from COVID-19 countries
ii) Strict enforcement of quarantine and isolation
iii) Aggressive contact tracing
iv) Availability of /liberal testing regime…Test, test, test
v) Optimum case management
vi) Intersectoral collaboration and national mobilization
vii) Locking down affected areas
viii) Provision of a safety net for those adversely affected by the difficult but necessary measures.
Additionally, especially in our environment, the protection and wellbeing of the frontline healthcare personnel are very important since they are our most valuable resource and any depletion in their numbers from ill health or the necessity for quarantine from exposure will have a negative multiplying effect.
The other disease conditions which afflict Ghanaians will not be in abeyance because of COVID-19 so provision has to be made to cater for emergencies and urgent cases, applying the necessary safety precautions, while maintaining readiness to deal with a large influx of cases from the pandemic.
To be prepared, we have to assume the worst whilst hoping for the best.