A couple of weeks ago, people were expressing joy on social media because coronavirus had not been reported yet in the country. I remember telling a friend that this mindset was a recipe for disaster. I said this because I knew it was an inevitability. And not just me, every health worker who understands the dynamics of infectious diseases knew that it was just the matter of time. But the general public thought Ghana was going to be spared like the case of Ebola outbreak in 2015. Now the reality has hit, and people are not receiving it well. I have seen so many people trying to politicize the issue and this article is meant to bring a little bit of clearance.
I will entreat people to stop comparing Ebola and Covid-19 in their efforts to company the respective administrations in this country. The former president John Mahama did well with his preparedness during the West African Ebola outbreak. But every well-meaning health worker knew we were just lucky it did not enter our country. Truth be told, Ghana was not any better prepared for Ebola than we are prepared for coronavirus today. We were largely unprepared for Ebola and we are largely unprepared for coronavirus today. It is not just Ghana, the world wasn’t ready for a pandemic of this magnitude.
I know in tough times people look hard for people to blame but, let’s face it, everyone is doing the best they can with regards to this outbreak. When the outbreak first broke out in China, while scientist were worried, many people including world leaders thought it was the problem of the Chinese. In 2015 Bill Gates spoke of a model of pandemic which was most likely to hit the globe in the next few years. He gave directives as to what the world should invest more in to be ready when it comes. But nobody listened. We thought he was talking gibberish and today everyone is panicking.
There are many factors that was responsible for Ebola being contained largely in 3 West Africa countries.
The Ebola virus disease was not transmitted through the air and does not spread through casual contact, such as being near an infected person. Unlike respiratory illnesses such as Covid-19, which can spread by particles that remain in the air after an infected person coughs or sneezes, Ebola is spread by direct contact with body fluids of a person who is sick with Ebola.
A person who is infected with Ebola cannot transmit until they show symptoms of the disease unlike Covid-19 which can be transferred by a perfectly normal person with no sign of the infection. This is the reason the infection is able to move so quickly throughout the world. Unsuspecting travelers can spread the infection without an idea. Unlike Covid-19, infected persons could not transmit Ebola until they are showing symptoms which made it easier for Ebola to be contained.
So dealing with Ebola is not as dealing with Covid-19, the two are completely different conditions and the threat levels are different. This is not the time to blame anyone for the outbreak coming to Ghana.
I remember just some few weeks ago a lot of social media expects were blaming government for not bringing the Ghanaian students in China back to the country. This was a period that the infection was largely not understood. The students clearly had a better chance staying in China than returning and their returning had huge implications. The health experts advised the government accordingly but social media experts thought the government was wrong. Iran did bring their students back but what did we see in Iran?
There was even nothing more absurd than some pastors complaining about the ban of church services among other religious gathering for 4 weeks. One pastor reckon that it was unthinkable but he had no problem with schools been closed indefinitely. That is the mindset of most Ghanaians, we want to have our cake and eat it.
A lot of people also blame the government for not closing our borders completely to the world. This exposes the level of ignorance in this country. Many people just want to talk without actually understanding the issues over which they talk. A country’s border is not like a house gate that can just be closed and opened at will. It has far reaching consequences than even the threat of Covid-19. You can talk of border control but complete closure may only delay the inevitable but don’t take my word for it.
Global experts of public health have warned stringently against border closure. If we close our borders for a month you will prefer to be killed by corona than to live in this country. Take a look at this report even for a developed country.
It is better for government to focus its efforts in getting our healthcare system ready to handle the outbreak than to focus on the boarders. The next two weeks in this county will determine how this affects Ghana. Now that there has been contact from infected persons, the experts have to complete the contact tracing but the inevitability is that more people will be infected one way or another. It is not the matter of if but the matter of when. This means that government should train more health workers and equip them with the right personal protective equipment instead of focusing on borders.
Strict border control is still important but that should not be the focus. We need to actually invest in expanding testing capabilities and centers to manage the condition if there is an outbreak. Imagine a person is suspected of the infection in Bimbilla, if they have to travel to Tamale hospital for confirmation or confinement imagine the number of people that are likely to get infected. This means the decentralization has to reach the district centers and possible mobile services can be employed. The public also need more education on what exactly to do when a case is suspected.
This is what was not done in 2015 with the Ebola outbreak even though it didn’t get to us and it is still not done now. It looks like we still expect the infection to stay only at the airports but we should better be ready.
What does this mean for the regular citizen?
We have to follow the public health directives to the later. Do not think that your community is too far away from an airport hence you can keep calm and continue to attend night clubs and other social gatherings. As I explained in the previous article, there is no need to panic over this, you are going to be fine. But it is important you follow the directives to help limit the infection. There are many risk groups in the country and even if it does not affect you much, you can spread it to a person in a risky group if you disregard preventive directives. Please watch this Instagram post from BBC.
The government and experts have to do what they have to do but in the end your health and safety is your responsibility. You can reduce your risk of infection if you:
- Clean hands frequently with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
- Cover nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing with tissue or flexed elbow.
- Avoid close contact (1 metre or 3 feet) with anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms.
- People should seek treatment immediately if infection is suspected or if symptoms occur or when advised by a health worker.
- Contact any of the national emergency numbers immediately if infection is suspected or if symptoms occur
You are encouraged to join the campaign on the pandemic COVID-19 sensitization in order to increase awareness. Tell a friend to tell a friend, CORONAVIRUS is real. Be on guard