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Opinions of Monday, 4 May 2020

Columnist: Yanick Noah Agboado

In the midst of coronavirus, the preparedness of the Builsa South District Assembly

Since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus disease in Wuhan in the People’sRepublic of China, several researchers, health experts and global leaders' attention was focus on the epicenter due to insurgence in the number of cases that province has 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 China 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’srelationship with China dates back to 1960 when the two countries first established diplomatic relations. Since then Ghana has provided substantial diplomatic support to the People’s Republic of China with the PRC 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 edifice that currently stands in the central business district of Accra.According to the Chinese Ambassador to Ghana, Shi Ting Wang, Trade betwe partner of China ien Ghana and China stood at US7.3 billion, making Ghana the 7thlargest tradingn Africa in 2018 (Ghanaian Times, 2019). This, he said increased by 9.4% from an amount of US6.67 billion in 2017.

In this article, trade among the two countries is not my 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.

Permit me to refresh your mind on how Ghana recorded it first cases of coronavirus.

According to the Minister of Health, in a televised address to the nation, confirmed that Ghana has recorded its first two cases of coronavirus on 12th March, 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 the movement of people, goods and services and trade activities among countries, there was a 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 missions among others.

There is some school of thought who believed that early closure of our airport, sea and land borders would have prevented Ghana from recording a case of the novel coronavirus. I do not share in that assertion. Once there is 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 in the case of Ghana.

According to the President of the Republic in his 7th address on the update on the coronavirus situation in Ghana which was delivered on 20th April, 2020, he indicated that since the first two (cases) of infections were recorded in the country, health experts have till date traced some eighty-six thousand (86,000) contacts, out of which we have test results of sixty-eight thousand, five hundred and ninety-one (68,591) contacts.

There is thus, a backlog of some eighteen thousand (18,000) tests whose results are yet to be received. Out of the 68,591, one thousand and forty-two (1,042) persons, that is 1.5%, have been confirmed as positive, with Sixty-seven thousand, five hundred and forty-nine (67,549) that is 98.5% testing negative. Ninety-nine persons have recovered and have been discharged while nine hundred and thirty (930) persons, who have been isolated, are responding to treatment either in their homes or in treatment facilities.

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 base 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 the suspected cases which has enabled health experts to identify and isolate infected persons, protect the population from further infections. The government is also implementing stimulus packages in the form of free food, water, and electricity among others to cushion Ghanaians especially the poor and the vulnerable.

But in the midst of the health crisis, what unique steps is the Builsa South District Assembly taken to fight the disease head-on and to protect the lives of its citizens? I noticed with great joy the level of development with respect to road infrastructure, springing up of cottage industries and the boom in local economic development activities when I arrived from Accra a day before the imposition of restriction on movement took effect.

But what struck my attention was the level of preparedness of the district to deal with the albatross on our neck as a country and the world as a whole. This could be because the whole world was focus on dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. It could also be due to the observation and survey I did in a community in which I stayed in Accra before traveling back to Builsa South District in the Upper East Region.

It will interest you to know that the level of the citizens knowledge on COVID – 19 and prevention measures were very minimal. Citizens within that locality lack adequate knowledge on even the basic prevention protocols to safeguard their lives and the lives of their loved ones.

The situation was however different in the Builsa South District, a place which will often be classified as a rural community or district. Upon arriving in town, I spent days monitoring the preparedness of the district to confront the COVID-19 should it breakout in the district.

To further observe situation on the ground and assess the level of knowledge of the indigenes, I took a ride through town and observe and sample the opinion of the citizenry on COVID–19.

It was amazing the level of knowledge and education they have 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 contraction of the virus especially when the region has so far recorded some nine (9) 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 however 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 ben tasked to provide a weekly update on the coronavirus situation in the district for appropriate action.

2. A COVID -19 crisis management plan has been developed to deal with an outbreak and contain the spread of the virus.

3. 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.

4. 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.

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

6. 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 tohelp prevent the spread of the virus. That is; Fumbisi market, Kanjarga market, Gbedema market and Uwasi market.

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

8. 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.

9. 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.

10. 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.

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

12. 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 1 meter or 3 feet with people who are unwell and staying home and self-isolate oneself from others in the household if he or she feels unwell.

Author: Yanick Noah Agboado, a student of Leadership and Local Government Practitioner ( or 054109564