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Opinions of Saturday, 23 May 2020

Columnist: Yanick Noah Agboado

Coronavirus, the preparedness of the Builsa South District Assembly

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Since the outbreak of the novel corona virus disease in Wuhan in the People’s Republic of China, several researchers, health experts and global leaders’ attention has been focused on the epicenter due to insurgence in the number of cases that that province recorded within the early days of the outbreak.

The intensity of the situation in China begun to create fear and panic if not anxiety across the globe, especially when that country has become an emerging economy and trading partner with almost all countries in the world.

Africa and for that matter Ghana is no exception. In fact, Ghana’s relationship with China dates back to the 1960s when the two countries first established diplomatic relations. Since then Ghana has provided substantial diplomatic support to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) with it reciprocating with material support for Ghana’s development. It may interest you to note that in the early 1990s, China built Ghana’s National Theatre as a reward for Ghana’s diplomatic support. In 2001 after the election of President John Agyekum Kufuor, the People’s Republic of China gave Ghana an amount of US2.4 million grant to renovate the theatre. This theatre is one of the beautiful edifices that currently stands in the central business district of Accra.

According to the Chinese Ambassador to Ghana, Shi Ting Wang, Trade between Ghana and China stood at US7.3 billion, making Ghana the seventh largest trading partner of China in Africa in 2018 (Ghanaian Times, 2019). This, he said increased by 9.4 per cent from an amount of US$6.67 billion in 2017.

In this article, trade among the two countries is not the focus but the above is just to establish that trade activities between the two countries as a result of globalization could have influenced the exportation of the virus from Wuhan, in China into Ghana. My focus is on how Ghana is showing leadership to contain the spread of the virus and save the dear lives of its citizenry and various measures instituted at the district level to mitigate and contain the spread of the virus.

The writer looks at these measures specifically from the Builsa South District, one of the vibrant districts in the Upper East Region of Ghana.
In the case of Ghana, the recorded cases were established as imported cases, which were influenced by the movement of an individual(s) from affected countries to a country with a zero case or no record of infection.

According to the Minister of Health, in a televised address to the nation, Ghana recorded its first two cases of coronavirus on March 12, 2020, amidst the worldwide pandemic when two people returned from Norway and Turkey. This was again confirmed by the President in his seventh (7th) Address to the nation on the update on the Covid-19 situation in the country. He said “so far, it has been established that the virus was imported into our midst from foreign shores, and is being spread through person to person contact”. In fact, as far as there is movement of people, goods and services and trade activities among countries, there was the high possibility of importation or exportation of the novel coronavirus from person to person across the globe. Therefore Ghana was not immune to the virus, since Ghanaians trade among different countries in terms of import or export of goods and services across the globe, participate in educational and exchange programmes, peacekeeping mission among others.

There is some school of thought who believe that early closure of our airport, sea and land borders would have prevented Ghana from recording a case of the novel coronavirus. That assertion cannot be true because once there are movement of people, goods and services from one country to the other, no country can be immune to any global pandemic especially when a country has large population size, undefined entry routes and porous borders as is the case of Ghana.

Since the outbreak, government has taken several measures to contain the spread of the pandemic by adopting the World Health Organization guidelines on COVID – 19 including several domestic measures such as a partial lockdown which was recently lifted based on available scientific data and to further lessen the burden of the poor and the vulnerable.

Other measures included the closure of the country’s air, sea and land borders, enhanced contact tracing and aggressive testing of suspected cases which has enabled health experts to identify and isolate infected persons, to protect the population from further infections.

But in the midst of the health crisis, what unique steps is the Builsa South District Assembly taking to fight the disease head-on and to protect the lives of its citizens? The level of development with respect to road infrastructure, springing up of cottage industries and the boom in local economic development activities in the area is remarkable. But what is easily noticeable is the level of preparedness of the District to deal with the albatross of COVID -19.

A survey of the Builsa South District, a place which might be classified as a rural community or district by this writer revealed an amazing level of knowledge and education the people received on the virus. This could not have been achieved without the show of leadership which every district should emulate in this period of crisis.

The District, recognizing it is not immune to the virus especially when the Region has so far recorded 28 cases, adopted a five prong approach thus, Education, Vigilance, Surveillance, Isolate and Treat (EVSIT) to deal with any outbreak and possibly prevent the virus from penetrating the borders of the District. It is also strictly adhering to the safety and preventive guidelines and protocols issued by the Ghana Health Service (GHS) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

The following measures have also been instituted at the district level to help mitigate and prevent the spread of the coronavirus:

1. A COVID – 19 Emergency Response Committee was formed and inaugurated to effectively deal with COVID -19 and related cases. The Committee has also been tasked to provide a weekly update on the coronavirus situation in the District for appropriate action.

2. The Assembly is in constant touch with chiefs, Assembly Members, opinion leaders and has encouraged them to report any suspected case or cases to health workers in the District for further investigation.

3. Several meetings have been held with stakeholders. That is; Chiefs, Assembly Members, Faith Based Organizations, Community Based Organizations among others on COVID – 19 to sensitize them on the disease and prevention tips. This was followed by the sensitization of the general citizens.

4. The Assembly has also sponsored a jingle and a coronavirus song in the local dialect to sensitize the citizens.

5. Major markets in the District were also closed for two weeks for fumigation and to further prevent natives who moved into the District from the lock down areas after the President of the Republic announced the lock down measures to help prevent the spread of the virus. That is; Fumbisi market, Kanjarga market, Gbedema market and Uwasi market.

6. All public toilets and health facilities were also disinfected during the fumigation exercise.

7. Forty-three (43) Veronica buckets (water storage buckets) and sanitary items were presented to the COVID–19 Emergency Response Team and the Fumbisi Health Centre for onward distribution to all health facilities in the District.

8. Veronica buckets (water storage buckets) and sanitary items have also been placed at the entrance of all government institutions and agencies in the District to promote hand washing among staff and clients who transact business with these organizations.

9. Authorities are still in collaboration with the security agencies to enforce the ban on social gathering. That is church activities, Muslim gatherings, funeral activities, parties, marriage ceremonies among others.

10. A newly built CHPS compound has been earmarked as an isolation Centre for coronavirus patient in case the District records a case or cases.

11. Authorities are continuously monitoring the national and regional developments on COVID–19 and reviewing its measures accordingly.

In conclusion, the coronavirus pandemic is not only a health crisis, but a war on economies of the world and must be met with equal measure to restore our economies back to normalcy. The actual fight against the virus is on the ground since the country has started recording community infections. The District Assemblies are often the local authorities representing the government at the grassroots level and should be seen to be showing leadership through the institution of stringent measures to complement the regional and national efforts in combating and containing the spread of the Coronavirus.

Meanwhile, citizens should be given continuous education and encouragement to comply with the preventive rules of social distancing, regular washing of hands under running water, the use of alcohol based hand sanitizer, avoiding handshaking, avoid touching eyes, nose or mouth with unclean hands, avoiding close contact of one meter or three feet with people who are unwell and staying home and self-isolate oneself from others in the household if he or she feels unwell.