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Opinions of Tuesday, 23 June 2020

Columnist: Torgbui Amekomedo II of Kporduave-Dzodze

100 days of coronavirus in Ghana – The data speaks

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I remember the nationwide frenzy when a false alarm had it that one student at the University of Ghana had tested positive for Covid-19. I went meshuga.

I wanted my niece out immediately. In comparison, these days, 132 cases per day on the average are recorded and we Ghanaians seem not to be moved nor bordered. Have we become emotionally insensitive to the virus as a people?

Ghana officially recorded her first case of coronavirus when two infected people returned from Norway and Turkey on March 12, 2020. Exactly 14 days thereafter, the country recorded the first recovery. Was this one of the first two people? You do the maths.

As the wind of COVID-19 blew across the African continent, it appeared at though that Ghana was expecting this unwelcomed guest, and so was preparing emergency containment and mitigation strategies: then Covid-19 got to Nigeria (Feb 25), Togo (March 2), Burkina Faso (March 9), Cote D’Ivoire (March 11). Ghana was literally engulfed by coronavirus, save the Gulf of Guinea.

The president of the Republic and his entourage had returned from Norway, celebrated Independence Day and went to work immediately. Consequently, on March 16, when 4 more cases had been recorded, Government quickly placed a ban on public gatherings such as conferences, funerals, political rallies, church services, activities at mosques, schools, etc.

Well, 18 Days after officially recording the first case, the Government imposed a partial lockdown on the Greater Accra Region and the Kumasi Greater Metropolitan Area, when Ghana had recorded 152 cases, 11 Recoveries, 145 Active cases and unfortunately 1 death.

Well, the ban has been lifted with guidelines and legislative Instruments, and as the lawyers debate the legality of such an LI, the citizenry risk serving years in prison if they do not wear masks.

On hindsight, there appear to be a plethora of theories on what COVID-19 is doing, or what we should do, or what we should have done.

While some claim we acted too late as a nation, and that we should have closed our borders even when the President was in Norway, or the partial lockdown was ineffective especially because we gathered citizens and made them to scramble for food packages thrown at them, or Government is suppressing the reality, I want to look at what the country’s data on COVID 19 is saying 100 days after recording the first case.

Fast forward to 100 days after our first case. Data speaks into the future through projections just what resource geologists use to tell us where an ore body or oil find is for our investment, or how finance and fund managers use to point us to the future price of a commodity or the shares to invest in, or how political pundits tell us who will win an election with the data at hand. So, let’s look at Ghana’s COVID 19 data.

Permit me to quote Mark Twain here, that “facts are stubborn, but statistics can be pliable”. The interpolation of available data shows that there were about 496 cases already in the country as of March 12, 2020, when the first two cases were recorded.

After one hundred days and from that humble beginning of two cases, we have 13,203 positive cases, with 8,395 active cases, 4,737 recoveries, and 70 deaths.

The first good thing is the death to cases ratio is 0.0053 (0.5%), one of the lowest around the world. What this means is that in every 1000 positive cases, minimum 5 would result in death (or one person out of every 200 positive cases would result in death). The global average is 53 to every 1000 cases. The US has 201 deaths to every 1000 cases.

It is difficult and indeed extremely painful to say that Ghana’s 5 deaths to every 1000 cases are good news, but that it is comparatively, and especially so, if we compare this to the havoc cerebrospinal meningitis (CSM) is causing in the northern part of Ghana, but receiving minimal attention.

However, the latent information in this is that, in Ghana, approximately two people die in every three days because of coronavirus, that is, we lose one Ghanaian to Covid-19 in every 36 hours. The danger is when will it stop? Also hidden in this data is the fact that, at the moment 132 new cases on the average are recorded every blessed day in Ghana (that is 13,203 divided by 100). This translates into 6 positive COVID -19 cases every hour in Ghana or one positive case every 10 minutes.

Available data show that Covid-19 in Ghana should peak with 31,000 - 50,000 cases, and more than 400 deaths in the last quarter of the year, with data at hand.

Though alarming, these values will become nothing if we should compound the status quo with a mass registration exercise in the name of a new voters’ register and also allow our children to go back to school without testing them first.