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Opinions of Wednesday, 22 April 2020

Columnist: Dawereso Boateng, Contributor

Lockdown lifting bad, ill-thought-out

Dawereso Boateng Dawereso Boateng

The decision by the president, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to lift the three (3) week old partial lockdown of Accra, Kumasi and Tema to be bad, ill-thought-out and regrettable now that Ghana’s case count has rapidly risen to 1,042.

The president said on his update number 7 measures taken against the spread of coronavirus, “Fellow Ghanaians, in view of our ability to undertake aggressive contact tracing of infected persons, the enhancement of our capacity to test, the expansion in the numbers of our treatment and isolation centres, our better understanding of the dynamism of the virus, the ramping up of our domestic capacity to produce our own personal protective equipment, sanitisers and medicines, the modest successes chalked at containing the spread of the virus in Accra and Kumasi, and the severe impact on the poor and vulnerable, I have taken the decision to lift the three (3) week old restriction on movements in the Greater Accra Metropolitan Area and Kasoa, and the Greater Kumasi Metropolitan Area and its contiguous districts, with effect from 1am on Monday, 20th April. In effect, tomorrow will see the partial lockdown in Accra and Kumasi being lifted”.

His decision to lift the restrictions came just one week after the World Health Organisation (WHO) warn countries about lifting coronavirus lockdown measures too early as the head said "lifting restrictions too quickly could lead to a deadly resurgence,"

As BBC reported, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said countries should be cautious about easing restrictions, even as some struggle with the economic impact.

Speaking at a virtual news conference in Geneva, Dr Tedros said there had been a "welcome slowing" of the epidemics in some European countries. He said the WHO was working with governments to form strategies for easing restrictions, but that this should not be done too soon. "The way down can be as dangerous as the way up if not managed properly."

I find the president’s decision to lift the restrictions to be complacent, rushed and deeply troubling as it has the potential to effectively regress the success chalked so far by the administration’s fight against the deadly novel coronavirus.

It is good to note that just three weeks ago on Friday 27TH March, when the president mounted the ‘podium’ to announce the restrictions of movement, Ghana’s case count was 137 having grown from two on 12TH March 2020 when the Ministry of Health first confirmed the maiden cases in our shores.

The Japan Mistake

Ghana’s current approach is the same mistake Japan did as their case has gotten out of hand. Doctors there warn of health system 'break down' as cases surge rapidly after they had almost won the fight against the coronavirus.

As BBC News reports, doctors in Japan warned, the country's medical system could collapse amid a wave of new coronavirus infections. Emergency rooms have been unable to treat some patients with serious health conditions due to the extra burden caused by the virus, officials say.

Japan, which was the second country outside China to record an infection, way back in January initially appeared to have had the virus under control passed 10,000 confirmed cases on Saturday 18TH April 2020. Group of doctors at GP surgeries are assisting hospitals with the testing of potential coronavirus patients in order to ease some of the pressure on the health system, officials say. "This is to prevent the medical system from crumbling," Konoshin Tamura, the deputy head of an association of GPs, told Reuters news agency. "Everyone needs to extend a helping hand. Otherwise, hospitals would break down," he added.

The inauspicious decision from the president came at a time when a number of organisations such as the Ghana Medical Association, the WHO and individuals alike have issued caution against relaxing the restrictive measures to tackle the pandemic.

Dr. Gordon Abeka-Nkrumah who is a health economist when speaking on Citi FM/TV’s news and current affairs programme The Big Issue, said Ghana is at its critical stage in the fight against the novel coronavirus and any move to remove the current restriction of movements will affect the progress made so far.

“Lockdowns have economic gradients. So the best we can do is to make sure that, we get people to stay home in the next week or two. We make sure we ramp up tests and isolate people and then we can encourage the wearing of masks so that we can then come out. Because if we don’t do that and we joke, what will happen is that, we may go back again and lockdown entirely in a way that we probably cannot handled. We need to get a bit more firm and get this to work.”