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Opinions of Monday, 20 April 2020

Columnist: Alhaji Haruna Rashid Ibrahim

Covid-19: Politics and economics over science

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As of April 20, 2020, the Ghana Health Service (GHS) reported another high jump in the confirmed cases of COVID-19.

With additional 208 cases, the total confirmed cases are now 1,042. 934 of the cases are active, 99 have recovered, and 9 have died. With 882 (84.6%) of the cases, Greater Accra Region extends its lead over all regions.

Note that the GAR alone has 5.5 times more cases than all the regions combined! Inexplicably, six out of the sixteen regions have no reported cases. Have any tests been done in those regions? An alarming 82% of all cases reported are with people whose history of travel has not yet been established.

That the president’s decision to lift the partial lockdown is based on politics and economics is in no doubt. While he may have the power to call the shots, we, as citizens, have a duty to subject the data and wisdom driving that decision to scrutiny. Based on research findings, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned against the early lifting of lockdown areas.

Another study published in medical journal The Lancet indicates that Coronavirus lockdowns should not be lifted until a vaccine for the disease is found. Yet another finding by WHO warns of a deadly resurgence if curbs are lifted too early. History also teaches us a lesson. In 1918, Philadelphia prematurely lifted its quarantine from the Spanish Flu with disastrous consequences.

Closer to home, Fred Binka, a Professor of Clinical Epidemiology at the University of Health and Allied Sciences (UHAS), argues that while the data does not support a total lockdown, there is enough data to show geographical hotspots.

He advocates that this is not the right time to lift the lockdown on Accra, which is the epicenter of Covid-19 in Ghana. Similarly, celebrated neurosurgeon, Dr. Hadi Mohammed Abdullah argues that the lifting of the lockdown is not backed by science. Especially, at a time when doctors and nurses are being infected due to the lack of PPEs. He had to buy his own PPE.

Even though GHS data lacks credibility and is unreliable, it is all we have to work with. A closer review of the data shows that 634 (60.8%) of the 1,042 of the cases were reported in the last 8 days! In the last two days, we have seen two spikes of 193 and 208 cases!

This does not indicate a flattening of the curve, but an escalation of cases. Why then lift the ban at this time? Verifiable evidence indicates the decision was driven purely by economic and political considerations, and not based on any epidemiological data. For the Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo/NPP government to get the $1 billion RCF loan from the IMF, it had to show it had taken directive measures to contain the spread of Covid-19.

Therefore, it directed the partial lockdown of its two major cities, Accra and Kumasi for 21 days. With its majority in parliament approving the loan, the next step was to lift the lockdown so the NPP can conduct their parliamentary primaries, and pave the way for the Electoral Commission and the National Identification Authority to restart their voter registration activities. The fix is in.

Nana Akufo-Addo is slick and sly like a fox. But therein lies his folly. As previously stated, every move they make, Allah is watching them and they are sure to fall flat on their faces. Nana Akufo-Addo and the NPP are fighting a losing battle. They plan and we plan. But Allah is the Best of Planners! Indeed, the Battle is the Lord’s. Victory is ours, in sha Allah.

Alhaji Haruna Rashid Ibrahim
Director of Research
National Democratic Congress
East Legon, Accra
April 20, 2020