CGM has been observing recent developments in Ghana with regards to the global Covid19 pandemic with concern. We would like to state our opinion on possible measures to reduce the incidence of the disease in our part of the world and hopefully limit fatalities to the barest minimum.
The virus is already in Ghana. Statistically the rate of increase in infections in Ghana within the first eight days is higher than the rate in Italy during the first two weeks of the pandemic. Perhaps, Ghana still has opportunity to change the course of events. We may have a younger population than Italy however statistics emerging from Italy, Spain, France and especially USA show that a significant percentage of hospitalizations are people between 20 and 54.
Apart from the need for frequent hand washing which has been well publicized, another measure which has proved helpful in curbing the spread of the covid19 is social distancing.
Our public system currently depends heavily on 15 seater minivans where passengers sit in very close proximity to each other. Based current knowledge of the way the virus is transmitted, Ghanaians don’t stand a chance if we continue using these minivans (trotro) as our primary mode of transport without any modifications. If we want to reduce our potential transmission rate then we have to consider firstly, restricting all non- essential services movement, secondly use the existing state-owned public bus system.
The government should as a priority compel all workers in the formal sector to work from home where possible. To maintain productivity, the government may have to partner with Telecom Companies to provide public sector workers with internet dongles to facilitate remote working. This will reduce the number of people on the roads hence reducing the need for the minivans.
Government could then introduce social distancing protocols on the state-owned buses (Ayalolo) which would hopefully have become the primary mode of transport for Ghanaians. For example, conductors could limit the number of passengers per trip. We should also provide protective material such as masks to drives and sanitize the buses at least 3 times a day. This will reduce the number of people on the roads and in the offices.
One can understand how difficult it is to control the informal sector. We need to remember Ghana has less than 50 functional ICUs with attached ventilators or respirators. As a result we don’t want to be in the state Italy is in now. The country needs to begin to engage NGOs with the capacity to support the under privileged in terms of social relief like food and other bare necessities during the proposed shutdown. Once we get that right we can then shut down for two weeks allowing only essential services to move. We could also engage the Engineering services of the military together with NADMO to prepare make shift hospitals now rather than later to wait for any spike in the number of infected people which could occur.
Currently testing is only available at two centers and needs to be ramped up. Efforts should be made to find more test kits so we could increase the number of centers. At the moment we may not have time on our side, the least we could do is try.
We believe that the many things government is doing is helping but we hope it can also give thoughts to some of the things we have mentioned. We hope and believe we can get through this if we do this together and take the simple things like the washing of our hands and the social distance seriously. God bless our homeland Ghana.
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Source: Ato Bonful
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