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Opinions of Sunday, 6 September 2020

Columnist: Isaac Ato Mensah

President Akufo-Addo’s latest comments on the coronavirus pandemic

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo

On Friday evening, the President granted an interview to Oman FM 107.1MhZ of Accra during which he was given an opportunity to tell us that he has now become “aware” of the things he had on earlier occasions denied awareness of.

Towards the end, the host also gave the President a chance to take credit for his COVID-19 efforts.

He spoke about a solid team he had put in place: he mentioned “a deputy Director-General of WHO” whom he had enrolled, he mentioned “Dr. Okoe Boye” a deputy minister for health he had enrolled along the line to augment the team, “Agyeman Manu himself” who is the Minister for Health, etcetera, etcetera.

Even if those persons are the best in their field, we have every right to scrutinize their performance in their current roles.

First, where is the peer reviewed paper from the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR), on their earlier press statement claim on “genome sequencing” and how come samples for testing have been so poorly managed?

Second, the COVID-19 Tracker app did not go through any vigorous and independent regulatory assessment.

And this is not a matter to be taken lightly; it is contrary to international best practice.

Electronic Health Record Technology (EHR) is regulated at three different levels with Level Three, the highest, requiring certification.

It is trite knowledge that “Never Events” in the American health system are penalised with varying degrees of sanctions.

Vim Lady, an Adom TV presenter has in a viral video raised a “Never Event” issue about the COVID-19 Tracker App but everyone who matters in that venture has slunk away – as usual hoping the issue will die off.

Captain Smart, a radio/TV presenter with Angel FM of Accra who questioned the cost of the tracker and cost of the media launch was pilloried by loquacious Ursula Owusu, the Minister for Communication, who meanwhile only last Wednesday relaunched the app.

It is unacceptable for our government to go about wasting our resources the way they do.

Certain institutional regulations are important to ensure safety.

The role of the Vice President should have been limited to removing red-tape in introducing the app; it is not advisable that he should be approving EHR products.

Even Russia, with generations of expertise in medical research has subjected their Sputnik-V vaccine to peer review and results were published in the Lancet on Friday.

“Experts have cautiously welcomed the results but said the sample size was small [76 participants] and urged more research on the elderly,” reported on 4 September, 2020.

But here in ghana, that same Friday on Oman FM/Net 2 TV our POTROG, who doubles as our head of state, instead of welcoming the concept of “doubt” as a sine qua non for the development of a scientifically literate society, rather took a swipe at “civil society groups”.

He was quick to recline on the ghanaian couch of whataboutery and intellectual laziness and asked why the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have not condemned a social media post shared on the opposition NDC flagbearer’s social media handle with ethnic undertones.

Third, the COVID-19 Task Force PROTROG praised has been quiet about the chloroquine they announced that they had ordered to treat COVID-19 even in the face of the scientific evidence to the contrary.

Are they indeed conducting a proper scientific trial from which important results will accrue?

Fourth, on 23 November 2017 – three years ago, Gilbert Mawuli Agbey reported for that President Akufo-Addo’s chief of Staff had launched a “medical records system” to be managed by “Lightwave eHealthcare Services” which was to introduce “a centralised data centre and a 24-hour data recovery unit….Real Time Bio-surveillance System, the tried and tested approach in the fight against outbreaks or the spread of communicable diseases”.

The story added: “An early warning system to help identify the source of a disease, which will enable quarantine measures to be deployed before it becomes an epidemic, is part of the project”.

Almost three years down the line…….well, never mind…..this is ghana!

We pray that Providence will continue to favour us and the virus will spare this land which has suffered a decades-long pandemic of sanitation-related diseases for which total preventative measures are well known and have been implemented in many countries but not here.

Mr. President, we are talking about systems, led by people of integrity; competent people who know what they are doing and always insist that the right thing is done.

“If you say you will talk/write, before you realise, it is you rather who have become a bad person”, and we all know exactly where that comes from, when it is said and precisely what it means.

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