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Opinions of Thursday, 23 April 2020

Columnist: Emmanuel Fekix Mantey

COVID-19 has exposed us as a nation

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When the Coronavirus (COVID 19) was first recorded in Wuhan China in 2019, many people in the African sub-region especially Ghana, least expected the virus to hit us so hard in such manner. Even if we thought of it, our expectations were on its effects in economic terms because we depended mostly on importation and not necessarily on health wise. Maybe, leadership thought the virus is far away in Asia and that before it hits Africa, a vaccine would be ready. This was a false hope and today, has led to our suffering from the deadly virus infecting many people and threatening our health and economic security. This mistake led to closing our borders and airports after the virus has arrived on our shores.

Realizing the consequences after the first two cases were recorded in the country, several measures has been put in place by government and other organizations in order to contain the spread of the virus in Ghana. These measures ranges from security operational policy to health systems to deal with the problem and social interventions to reduce the impact on livelihood of citizens. The most challenging measure implemented was the lockdown of the Greater Accra Metropolitan area, Kasoa and the Greater Kumasi Area. This measure was daunting considering the social and economic impact on the country and citizens. However, Ghanaians has sacrificed and gone through, giving space for government to trace, test and treat people who have been infected by the virus and also come to know about the dynamics of the virus.

Fellow Ghanaians, like the president said in his 7th address on Sunday 19th April, 2020, when he lifted the lockdown on those areas mentioned above, we know a lot about the virus: its genome, mode of infection, how to prevent it except that there is no cure for the virus. It will therefore be unwise economically and health wise to keep the lockdown in place. Thus, removing the lockdown is the best decision since it is only one measure among the many mechanisms that can be adopted to overcome the virus.

According to the president, over 68,000 people have been tested so far, out of which 1042 have tested positive and 99 recovered from the virus. This is a plus and commendable. Again, Scientists in Ghana are making great strides to expose the virus to deeper knowledge so that a vaccine could be developed. Congratulations to the great men of Ghana who achieved this feet. Also, there is the local initiative to produce PPEs for the combat of the virus.

Indeed, the pandemic is a human security problem that cannot be fought using guns and military artilleries. It therefore requires strategic policies, programmes and activities ranging from economic, health, humanitarian and social to deal with the problem we are confronted with.

It is important to note that, Ghana couldn’t remain under lockdown for a long time. This is because lockdown is not the only measure or even an effective measure to stop the spread of the virus. It only provides space for health officials to track the virus and perhaps, contain it within a particular location. It however have its own ramifications with regards to economic growth of the country since no productive work goes on under lockdown, social activities like funerals are halted which threatens the capacity of mortuaries with its accompanying public health problems, and effect on individual livelihood of people.

People have argued that at the time of implementing the partial lockdown, Ghana had only 132 confirmed cases of COVID 19 why then must the lockdown be lifted when the nation is recording 1042 cases? In security studies, many factors could explain the reasons for the lifting of the lockdown. These are a few of them and my suggestions:

1. The level of securitization - Securitization has to do with social construction of threats and security. Security in this context is analyzed as a speech act (Waever, 1989). It concerns with when, why and how issues are labeled as security problems. Security problems are developments that threaten the sovereignty or independence of a state or society in a particularly rapid or dramatic fashion, and deprive it of the capacity to manage by itself accordingly. When a threat is adequately securitized, it paves way for drastic measures to be taken in dealing with the problem.
The COVID 19 pandemic has been adequately securitized of which today, there is the legal framework The Imposition of Restrictions Act, 2020 (Act 1020) that allows for every action to be taken at any time within the law to deal with the problem. There is administrative framework which is the National Committee on COVID 19. There is also the COVID 19 Trust Fund aimed at raising funds for the fight. In addition, there is an attempt to increase testing centers, treatment centers and establishing infectious disease center in the country. We must not relent on these efforts but ensure their full implementation since it forms the basis for addressing a major public health problem.
2. Humanitarian Interventions – because the pandemic has created a lot of humanitarian needs, attempts should be made at implementing effective programmes that addresses this problem. Some approaches were adopted which include sharing of cooked and uncooked food and relief on utility bills for consumers.

In addition to the above, as a matter of urgency, we must establish Social Security Fund that will cater for people who affected going forward with this problem. This fund can provide monthly income to people who become unemployed and other people affected in such situations. Also, Enterprise Stimulus Fund must be established to support businesses affected such as hotels, manufacturing industry, service industry, etc.

3. Public education – The National Commission on Civic Education, the media, Civil Society including faith-based organization must intensify their operations on public education on preventive health care systems which should be developed by the Ministry of Health and Ghana Health Service.

4. Production of adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) – more PPEs should be available to health workers in the country. In addition, every citizen must have access to basic PPEs such as masks for all, sanitizer for all. These basic needs should be on the shelves for people to purchase.

5. Increase the level of enhance testing programmes to cover more people apart from tracing contacts and testing them. The three Ts should cover more people because of the community spread of the virus. A lot could be done to identify more people who are asymptomic to isolate them from among the communities.

6. Measures such as social distancing, freeze on public and social gathering, closure of schools for the time being, avoiding handshakes, washing of hands and using hand sanitizers must not under any circumstances be compromised.

We are at a battle front and possibly will overcome the virus to win this battle. It is about stopping the spread of the virus and treating the people infected. If all will play our part, we shall overcome successfully.