By: H.E JOHN DRAMANI MAHAMA
Happy Easter my fellow countrymen and women. Today is day 14 (two weeks) since the partial lockdown declared by the President in some parts of Greater Accra and Ashanti regions, and Kasoa due to the deadly Coronavirus pandemic.
So far, Ghana has confirmed 408 people as having been infected with the virus. Out of this number, four (4) have recovered and eight (8) dead. I pray for God’s mighty healing on the sick, including our compatriot Ambassador Papa Owusu Ankomah, and consolation for the families of the deceased.
I also wish to extend my condolences to the family of Professor Jacob Plange-Rhule, the Rector of the Ghana College of Physicians and Surgeons and the entire medical fraternity for his untimely death after he was infected by the COVID-19 virus. Plange-Rhule exuded humility. He was a medical luminary, affable, warm and knowledgeable. His death, and that of other health workers, is an irreplaceable loss.
As we mourn the dead from COVID-19, meningitis is reported to have killed 37 people in the Upper West Region, out of hundreds who have contracted the illness. Even as we focus on the COVID-19 pandemic, we must not take our eyes off endemic diseases that have a tragic history of annually exacting a significant toll on our people. I call on Government to offer the regions in the north the needed attention in order to address the silent deaths and infections occurring as a result of meningitis.
Last week I received a briefing from the head of our COVID-19 technical team and I am satisfied with the level of collaboration they have with the National COVID-19 response team. As has been said by many, we must continue to be guided by science in our response to this dreadful pandemic. It is, therefore, necessary for experts to guide the decision-makers with the appropriate models of the trajectory the disease is likely to take.
It will be a reliable guide on decisions relating to extensions or otherwise of restrictions on movement and border closures. This will also require setting up additional testing sites in order that the backlog of samples awaiting testing can be cleared. Enhanced surveillance and increased efforts at contact tracing will help to give a clearer picture of where we are in the deadly journey of this virus.
We need to project quickly, what the expected peaking of infection will be, and when we will begin to see a flattening of the curve on new infections and hospitalizations.
From the latest statistics and escalation in numbers, it is clear we are in a difficult spot in the battle to contain COVID-19. But together we can overcome the uncertainties of the moment. The latest revelation that 57.1% of infected persons have no history of foreign travel is particularly worrisome. It implies that we may have begun to experience community transmission of the virus.
While our minds are focused on fighting COVID-19, I would like to start a conversation about strategic plans and investments that will address future pandemics. As I have already suggested there is the need for a National Infectious Disease Response Plan that clearly sets out the specific steps to be taken to prevent the entry of such diseases, quickly arrest them at a very early stage even if they do enter our shores and reduce their impact to the barest minimum.
I have previously stated that given the opportunity, I will ensure that we establish another medical research centre with capacity like the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR) and the Kumasi Centre for Collaborative Research in Tropical Medicine (KCCR) in the Northern part of Ghana as part of the Response Plan. Under the plan, we will double the bed capacity of the 37 military hospital and build an Infectious Diseases Centre there to cater for the Southern sector in order to help manage infections like Ebola and COVID-19
I wish to reiterate my call for government to provide adequate PPEs to health workers, ensure testing of as many people as possible for the COVID-19 virus as we stay home during the extended lockdown period, observing social distancing protocols and washing our hands with soap under running water, regularly.
A Happy Easter to all of us. It is my prayer that this Season will offer our dear nation God’s unfailing Mercy and Grace to overcome the surge of our present pain.
Together We Will Win the Fight Against Coronavirus!