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Politics of Monday, 20 April 2020


Lockdown lift: 'An extremely dangerous strategy that flies in the face of logic' - Sly Mensah

Sylvester Adinam Mensah, former Chief Executive of the NHIA Sylvester Adinam Mensah, former Chief Executive of the NHIA

Former CEO of the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA), Sylvester Mensah, has expressed shock over President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo's decision to uplift the lockdown directive on some areas in the country.

Akufo-Addo in his 7th national address on the Coronavirus pandemic noted that the partial lockdown imposed on the Greater Accra and Greater Kumasi Metropolitan Areas as well as Kasoa and Tema is to be lifted effective Monday, April 20.

According to the president, the decision was influenced by several factors including Ghana’s ability to undertake aggressive contact tracing, an enhanced capacity to test, expansion of the number of treatment and isolation centres as well as the impact of the virus on the poor and vulnerable in the affected areas.

But Sylvester Mensah described the decision by President Akufo-Addo as an "extremely dangerous strategy that flies in the face of logic."

He argued that lifting of restrictions is coming at a time when the number of positive cases has risen sharply to 1,042 with over 18,000 outstanding tests and a substantial number of contact tracing yet to be undertaken.

Mr Mensah believes the move was based on a political motive and fears the decision will further spike the spread of COVID-19 in the country.

Read his Sylvester Mensah's full post below

Sylvester Adinam Mensah writes:

In his address to the nation on Sunday night, 19th April 2020, His Excellency the President, Nana Addo Danquah Akuffo Addo sprang a surprise on Ghanaians and indeed a surprise on the international community by lifting the three-week-old partial lockdown imposed on some parts of Ghana.

It is baffling that the restrictions were imposed on March 27, 2020, when the number of positive coronavirus cases was just 132 with about 970 outstanding contacts tracing to be done.

The lifting of restrictions is coming at a time when the number of positive cases has risen sharply to 1,042 with over 18,000 outstanding tests and a substantial number of contact tracing yet to be undertaken.

His excellency went to great lengths to justify this extremely dangerous strategy that flies in the face of logic and dares the virulent Coronavirus to overrun our weak systems.

On March 25, 2020, the Ghana Medical Association (GMA) called on the government to lock down the entire country "with immediate effect".

According to the association, a national (partial) lockdown "is a proven option backed by science and along with the other measures will ultimately be in our best interest".

It does appear now that science and logic have left the partnership, and the politics is now standing all alone!

Government should be tolerant of criticism of its approach to fighting COVID-19. This is not the time for political posturing. Anyone who seeks to make political capital out of this tragedy ought to be ashamed. We are all in this crisis together and we all bear the consequences of government decisions.

The fight against COVID-19 requires total mobilisation and deployment of all our intellectual and other resources, transparency in the handling of the pandemic and decisiveness in leadership.

His Excellency the President sounds convincing when he says that the government's response to the outbreak is data and science-led. However, this could be a euphemism for a targeted approach rather than an aggressive and broad effort to contain the Coronavirus.

The data and science-led rhetoric was the posture of the UK government, which was reluctant to introduce the necessary robust measures required to contain the outbreak, presumably due to sensitivities over personal liberties, imminent economic downturn and the need for introducing additional social safety-nets. The result is an unfolding catastrophe.

Due to the initial casual and lackadaisical approach, infection rates soared on the quiet - exponentially. On 10th April 2020, the UK recorded more than 980 coronavirus deaths in a single day. The strict lockdown came too late; locking the stables after the horse had bolted. In the US, a few days ago, Coronavirus deaths hit a record 2,108 in a single day. Easing the lockdown in Japan and Singapore and the resulted effect is also there to guide us.

Advanced, self-confident nations with better healthcare systems and more efficient contact tracing mechanisms are being overwhelmed by the pandemic and we seem not to heed the tragic lessons from their experiences.

The reality is that science is lagging behind the swiftness of the spread of the disease. The long silent incubation period gives the deadly virus a head start and an exponential rate of spread much faster than our contact tracing and testing protocols.

It seems the many socio-political and economic considerations and expediencies we pander to, hinder the most effectual countermeasures we could muster. We need a sense of urgency and a grasp of just how deadly and overwhelming Coronavirus is.

In Ghana, the number of confirmed Coronavirus infections has been increasing. Infections are spreading across the regions and instead of a national partial lockdown, we have a lifting of restrictions or the lockdown. It seems we have squandered the advantage of the lead-time we had for preparation before Ghana recorded the first COVID-19 case and further compromising the late successes we have achieved.

It appears government cannot do away with a strategy of running shifts as we are being introduced to another shift system in our markets. This would, unfortunately, see households in the markets on a daily basis.

We haven’t fully enforced the requisite social distancing in public places, among the security agencies, on public transport, at the markets, and the chaotic scenes of milling crowds at the free food distribution locations — ideal conditions for the rapid spread of the virus. If we are spared an escalation in infections, it would be by divine grace and not the science relied upon for the current government decision

The Chinese example shows we need to be as swift and aggressive as the virus itself in order to contain and defeat it. The choice is whether we do so promptly or have it imposed upon us by the disease if the situation worsens. It is delusional to think that we have a choice. Perhaps there is a stoic willingness on the part of some in authority to accept a heavy toll in COVID-19 casualties. God forbid!

Government can do better!

#StopTheSpread #StaySafe