Avowedly, Ghana under His Excellency Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has shown leadership in the national fight against the global pandemic. Since His Excellency’s first address to the State on the status of Corona Virus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) on Wednesday, March 11, 2020, the presidency has enjoyed overwhelming support from religious leaders, chiefs and the general public. It is impossible to overlook the strategies and measures put in place to help fight COVID-19.
So far, The Jubilee House’s decisions have been aimed at stopping the importation of the virus and reducing or arresting it spread. Our numbers look positive; the Jubilee House has shown utmost finesse in battling the spread of the virus in Ghana but was a partial lockdown the best option at the time the decision was made? Could we have had a total lockdown nationwide or a partial lockdown with stringency?
On March 27th, His Excellency Nana Addo announced a Partial Lockdown with a 2-day prior notice. Greater Accra Region including Tema, Ashiaman and surprisingly Awutu Senya East and Kasoa were placed under partial lockdown. The Greater Kumasi Metropolitan Areas were not spared for the cases it has recorded.
Unfortunately, the lockdown, the 2-day prior notice, and an awakened quondam – illiteracy, formed a perfect recipe for disaster in the management and fight against the deadly coronavirus. These engendered the horizontal transmissions or community spread from identified hotspots to regions that were yet to record cases before the lockdown was announced.
What Exactly is Wrong with the Partial Lockdown Decision?
For starters, there are 2 main spread models in pandemics such as COVID-19; the Vertical Transmissions (imported cases) and Horizontal Transmission (community spread transmission). Vertical transmissions are easy to be managed; exposed and infected persons are easily identified and all their possible contacts can be traced by authorities and quarantined. If contacts start showing symptoms of the disease within the period, they can be managed at an isolation centres after testing positive. Ghana has done this with perfection. We are in total control of vertical or imported cases with diligence.
Horizontal transmission, however, is difficult to manage especially when potential carriers are caused to flee epicentres or hotspots due to fear of possible lockdown. Horizontal spread or community spread in more likely to escalate than imported cases if borders and ports are handled with all seriousness. Movement of anxious people, mostly untested and possible unaware carriers from hotspots to districts and regions that are yet to record cases.
Unfortunately, this is what the partial lockdown with its 2-day prior notice stimulated; an exodus of a large untested citizen frightened by a partial lockdown moved in search of refuge or liberty, in regions and areas with no reported case. In less than 24 hours, thousands of people fled the Greater Accra and Greater Kumasi Metropolitan Areas to their hometowns, rural areas that cannot manage COVID-19 cases at their level. Some 171 kayayei (head porters) and their children had to be returned to Accra. Some other 200 kayayei had already arrived up north with a group calling itself the Northern Development Forum (NDF) asking government to conduct test for the novel coronavirus on all persons who returned from Accra
Lockdown was inevitable at case number 25. Ghana passed lockdown at horizontal case number 1. At that point, a 21-day national lockdown was necessary; to get firm grips on community transmissions, and eventually secure all regions with a ban on interregional commutation. A total lockdown with a 3-day regular review of cases on a regional basis was Ghana’s best option in the fight against the cunning coronavirus. Prior notice was only necessary if lockdown was nationwide else potential carriers will spread the virus horizontally thereby defeating the government’s laudable efforts since this battle began.
COVID-19 itself and the number of reported cases in Ghana are scary. There is no reason to doubt the Disease Surveillance Department of Ghana Health Service figures, though they might not be a true reflection of Ghana’s situation. Our professionals and experts leading the battle will fit perfectly and easily in any advanced health system, and the government has shown the will to lead the fight against the coronavirus.
Ghana is now a “battlefield in World War III” and the global enemy is a coronavirus, not people. H. E. Nana Addo has been empathetically resolute, what will happen to our poor brothers and sisters, street hawkers, homeless, and people who “work hand to mouth” among others. The virus is more deadly than a lockdown but in economies such as ours, a total lockdown could claim more lives than COVID-19, yet it was a necessary evil that had to be done.
For now, all we have to do is rally behind the Presidency, stay indoors, keep praying and remember to share with your poor neighbour.