COVID-19 is here to stay; we must learn to live with it — Health Minister

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  • Gov’t assures of no more lockdowns as economic impact could be catastrophic

Government, through the Ministry of Health, has given the strongest indication yet to underscore the global message that the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) is here to stay and humans must learn new ways to live with it until a vaccine is found; and that there are no plans to plunge any part of the country into a lockdown again.

As the rate of infection continues to rise locally and countries and cities around the globe that had the virus under control, Wuhan in China as an example, experiencing a spike in new infections after lifting lockdown restrictions, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, the Minister of Health, advised Ghanaians to come to terms with the presence of COVID-19 and live with it.

“COVID-19 has come to live with us, and even though our death rate is quite low the disease is still dangerous and we need to live with and manage ourselves against it. We need to manage the way we do things. We will have to find a way to ensure that the numbers don’t go up,” Mr. Agyeman-Manu said.

Speaking at the COVID-19 regular briefing organised by the Ministry of Information, Mr. Agyeman-Manu stressed that citizens should not expect a cure anytime soon – even though there have been global outcries for a vaccine to be found for life to return to normal.

Global perspective

On a global scale, the COVID-19 pandemic has claimed more than 300,000 lives and infected 4.3 million people; with the United States of America (USA) recording the highest number of cases and deaths.

Yesterday, the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced that coronavirus may never go away. According to WHO’s Emergencies Director, Dr. Mike Ryan: “It is important to put this on the table: this virus may become just another endemic virus in our communities, and this virus may never go away,” he said.

He therefore warned against trying to predict when the virus would disappear, adding that even if a vaccine is found, controlling the virus will require a ‘massive effort’.

No more lockdowns

Mr. Agyeman-Manu, at the press conference, noted that the nation might not again plunge any location into a lockdown, considering the dire economic and social impacts experienced during the three-week partial lockdown of Greater Accra, Kasoa and Greater Kumasi.

“Generally, the lockdown is not something that we believe is going to work any longer. I have said that we have now realised the lockdown taught us a lot of things, and its impact is quite severe. So, what we have to do now is to learn to live with the disease,” he said.

His comment comes a few days after the Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta, revealed that the country could not have managed an extension of the partial lockdown to curb spread of the pandemic due to the large informal sector of the economy.

Speaking at an event at Jubilee House, the Finance Minister said it was necessary to lift the lockdown. “When you look at what happened during the lockdown, it was quite clear after a point that given 90 percent of our population is informal and go out each day to earn wages, it became increasingly impossible to continue with such a policy,” he said.

The virus has thrown overboard all of Ghana’s economic projections and indicators, with inflation jumping into double digits for the first time in two years – to 10.6 percent from the 7.8 percent recorded in the prior three months.

Already, the initial cost of the deadly pandemic to the economy, which includes what the country will lose in terms of revenue and measures to contain the disease, according to Mr. Ofori-Atta is estimated to be at least GH¢9.5billion, representing 2.5 percent of GDP.

The country’s budget deficit, which was initially projected at 4.7 percent, will also widen to 7.8 percent; a situation that has forced government to run back to the IMF for a US$1billion Rapid Credit Facility to cushion the economy.

Adherence to preventive measures and immune boosters

To Mr. Agyeman-Manu, the Health Minister, people need to practice the laid-down protocols because the cases are increased when people continue to do things in groups, especially without practicing social distancing. “People are behaving as if they haven’t heard what’s going on, despite the calls to observe social distancing. We need to do something that will enable us to live our normal lives.”

Last week, the Director of Public Health at the Ghana Health Service, Dr. Badu Sarkodie, said Madagascar has made an offer to Ghana concerning the herbal cure they have discovered, but the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) will have to assess the product. “I believe that a quantity might be made available to the country and we will ensure collaboration with FDA. They have to do some assessment and then we’ll take it from there.”

During President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo’s ninth address to the nation on the state of COVID-19 in the country, he advised citizens that meals such as kontomire and crab can help boost the immune system to help fight the disease.

“We are told that the key vitamins that fortify our immune system are vitamins A, B6, C, and E. Fortunately for us, in Ghana all of these can be found in many of our foods: such as oranges, Kontomire, millet, cashew nuts, crab, plantain, Okra, Dawadawa, Brown rice and Mushrooms.”

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