The coronavirus figures are getting scarier by the day, over half a million lives are affected worldwide, with close to 30,000 lives perishing from the surface of the earth. With the trend facing upward, the world sits on tenterhooks. Global leaders face their worst nightmare as the disease ravage through states and countries. The fear of the unknown hangs in the atmosphere as the world races to develop a working vaccine.
First world countries are crumbling; hospitals are at their wit’s end as they hang on the verge of breaking. With packed hospitals full of emergency cases, doctors and health practitioners paint a dire picture of an apocalypse. Nations such as the United States, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom with perceived great healthcare systems are reeling under the stress of their lives.
Covid-19 perhaps has tested the mettle of nations and shows how the world can sweat in a situation like this. Lives have changed forever; the psyche of countries has been impacted for eternity. The world remains under quarantine.
While countries implement measures such as social distancing, shut-downs, and quarantine to curb the spread of the deadly disease, the blanket measures by the World Health Organization (WHO) is perhaps the harshest of measures to be implemented by some developing countries. Fragile systems, centuries of practised family and social lives, modes of transportation, accommodation, and structure of economic activities serve as impediments in the way of fighting coronavirus.
So far, Africa, as confirmed over 1000 cases of Covid-19 as fears, continues to grow. With fewer hospitals, little sophisticated equipment and a limited number of healthcare professionals, the fate of the over 1.2 billion populated continent hangs in a tilted balance. Measures such as border-closure, social distancing, personal hygiene, and quarantine are being implemented but the efficiency of the measures remains to be seen as the number of confirmed cases continues to grow.
Ghana has so far confirmed 136 cases of Covid-19, with over a thousand people under quarantine with many others on the radar of contact tracing team. The growing numbers of confirmed cases have led to the call for a lock-down by some sections of the society. The Ghana Medical Association (GMA) being the recent group to add their voice to the call for a national shutdown.
The association in a press statement among other things state “the disturbing trend of community spread and the obvious inadequate capacity (logistic and human resource) of the Nation’s Health System to deal with increasing numbers of COVID-19 infection especially severe and critical cases, hereby call on His Excellency the President of the Republic of Ghana to declare a Nationwide Lockdown with the exception of essential services, food, water and medicines businesses with immediate effect.”
According to some health experts, a partial or total shutdown is crucial in containing the disease which has the possibility of getting out of hands. The statement by the GMA perhaps borne out of genuine concern looking at the state of our health system. I could therefore not fault their position since they have first-hand information on case management as frontline healthcare providers in the case of a pandemic such as Covid-19.
However, some sections of the populace are opposing the idea as they argue that, the situation on the ground does not support the call. Ghana’s large informal sector could be hard hit by a total lockdown as people in this segment mostly live in unplanned social settings with no or little social amenities.
According to a publication by Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) in assessing Ghana’s informal economy, they alluded to the fact that a large number of all employment in Ghana is found in the informal sector. “In Ghana, about 88% of the workforce is employed in the informal sector and therefore earns less money, has irregular income and does not have access to basic protections and services of the state.”
The Ghana statistical service has estimated that about “86.1% of all employees to be found in the informal economy. 90.9% of women and 81% of men are working under circumstances which are to a large extend not controlled, regulated or standardized by state institutions.”
If the above statistics are anything to go by, it only shows how fragile Ghana’s economic system is amid lack of basic social amenities and would therefore not favour a lockdown since that could bring untold hardship to the majority of its people. Most families could go without food, water, and other services as their livelihoods which mostly dependent on daily sales could be curtailed. Social amenities such are toilet facilities are visibly absent as people found in this setting depend on public places as most live in ‘compound houses’.
The president of Ghana, therefore, finds himself between the rock and hard place. The decision lies within his reach but the will power to carry out will depend on a well thought through plans with a clear consequence. The perceived ‘outburst’ by the president could, therefore, be understood as he finds himself in a conundrum.
The president in a meeting with the leadership of Trade Union Congress (TUC) said, “People in Ghana are now talking about a lockdown. The majority of people who will be affected by the decision of that nature are the working people of our country-the ordinary people of Ghana. They are the ones who will be affected and it is important for us to take into account the circumstances and conditions. When we lock down what are the consequences? A responsible government is required to look at all the implications before decisions are made.”
Some health expert suggests that Ghana has no option in this situation. Lock-down or not, lives are going to be impacted negatively. To those on the health field, the transmission of the disease is bound to increase as people who may have been infected but remain asymptomatic could spread the disease which could overwhelm the health system of the country.
Perhaps a hard nut to crack, as the question continues to pop. To lockdown or not to lockdown, what are the consequences? Ghana faces a challenge of a lifetime and this could be a life-changing opportunity for the West African country.
Above all, the continuous education of citizens to adhere to measures to reduce the spread as put in place remain the ultimate catalyst as the nation works to calm the raging sea-Covid-19.
Let us adhere to the guidelines:
- Wash your hands with soap under running water
- Avoid overcrowded areas
- Avoid touching your face
- Practice social distancing
- Drink enough water, eat healthily and have enough rest.
- If you happen to have symptoms such as dry cough, fever, headache and shortness of breath, report to authority by calling 112 and isolate yourself to protect your family and friends from contracting the disease.
The writer, Kennedy S. Opoku, is a student at the Ghana Institute of Journalism.