I am overwhelmed; indeed, flabbergasted is the word that best describes my feelings after a visit to Kumasi and beyond last week.
I was amazed that after all the education on COVID-19 over the last couple of months, a section of our populace is still behaving like life is normal. The deadly pestilence in our midst, infecting people at a rapid rate and claiming lives, still seems far away for some of our people. Why is such a deadly truth, so difficult to accept?
Business as usual
The reality I encountered on my get away from Accra to Ashanti Region by road is that in terms of understanding the atrocious nature of the novel disease, we are not all at par. For some people, in their mind’s eye, the pandemic is foreign, not yet in town and so business continues as usual.
Where has all the education on the protocols for social distancing and wearing of face masks in public gone? I kept asking myself on the journey. Is it a matter of ignorance, not enough education, both or something else?
I had not moved for more than a distance of three kilometres away from home since March when the first case of coronavirus in the country was reported. I never imagined that on our roads, life was bubbly and carefree despite the uncertainties presented by the deadly virus.
The active human and vehicular traffic especially on the Ofankor–Pokuase road where a major road construction is in progress stunned me. Street hawkers were at their peak and so were busy commuter buses. Despite the education on wearing of face masks in public spaces, one could count only one in five people wearing a mask all the time.
The picture did not change throughout the journey to Kumasi and beyond. On the road, wayside mechanics, foodstuff vendors, bush meat sellers and others were all in business as usual mode. No observance of COVID-19 protocols. How could this too pass if adherence to the protocols that would curb the virus is flouted with impunity?
Villages and townships
Passingthrough villages and townships on the Accra-Kumasi road, young men relaxed under trees playing draughts. It had rained heavily throughout the Sunday night into that Monday. A lot of the streams along the route were filled up. Children in some villages were leisurely washing in the streams. Were parents not mindful of the monster with no discrimination in town?
My biggest shock was in Kumasi, the country’s second epicentre after Accra. It seemed to me that the reported daily increases in the number of infected persons did not matter much as to cause changes in behaviours and attitudes. More questions were filling my mind but no obvious answers.
It did not matter the diversion I took, the streets of Kumasi was full with busy movements of people and vehicles. More worrying was the fact that very few people out there were wearing face masks. As for social distancing, it had been thrown to the dogs.
People sat leisurely in front of shops chatting. Dressmakers and their apprentices grouped together in their shops like before. The same was with hairdressing salons and barbering shops. Preachers were on the streets with their megaphones. At a spot there was a group of gospel singers with a band in attendance doing their business as usual.
The obvious observation from my trip was that coronavirus is imaginary to some. People are playing foolhardy and refusing to acknowledge that COVID-19 is here in town and raging havoc with over 6,200 infections and dozens of deaths in Ghana as at May 21.
Above all, I felt the education on the ferocious nature of the disease had not trickled through. We need local opinion formers to employ all the means at their disposal to engage their communities. Community information systems must be employed. Gong-gong beaters must be brought back at dawn and at sunset to drum home to communities that COVID-19 is right at people’s doorstep.
We need Information Services Department (ISD) to team up with the National Commission on Civic Education (NCCE) to go deep down with the naked truths about COVID-19.
From the little I saw last week, the pandemic is being underrated, perhaps not well understood. There is a seeming belief that it is far from us. It is time to shout it out convincingly that COVID-19 is already in town and in communities.
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