COVID-19 :‘Lockdown would leave us with no economy to run’

Dr. Anthony Nsiah Asare, the Presidential Advisor on Health, has said that with all the measures being implemented to contain the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), the last thing the president wants is to have the measures adversely affect social and economic activities in the country.

“Any step that he takes, anything that he wants to do, any broadcast that will announce new measures, he is looking at the social life and economy of this country. So, people should bear with us,” Dr. Nsia Asare, who is a key member of the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Coronavirus response, told a meeting to sensitise political parties on government measures to fight the outbreak of the virus.

According to him, the possibility of a lockdown is on the table; and even if it is triggered, it will be done in a way to ensure some economic activities still go on.

“People have been talking – ban everything, ban trotro, why don’t you close the market – but our community setup does not support such a lockdown. People need to do some petty trading to survive and take care of their families. That is how we live, and we need to take those things into consideration.

“I have realised that in all the countries where there is a lockdown, it is not a total lockdown; supermarkets are opened, you can go to your doctor, you can go to the pharmacy. We are learning from all the other countries, and we will see what we can do to make sure that the social and economic lives of the people in this country are not compromised,” Nsiah Asare added.

According to him, if measures are not carefully taken into consideration, many people might die from hunger or lose their jobs as the country fights the virus.

Meanwhile, during a meeting between President Akufo-Addo and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) yesterday, the president confirmed that a lockdown is on the table but a decision to activate it is yet to be made.

Ghana switches to Testing Mode

Dr. Nsia Asare also revealed that the nation has switched fully into a testing mode, and will test everyone captured in the contact-tracing activities. He believes that the development will escalate the number of COVID-19-positive cases, but will also help the country have a better picture of the situation.

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He said the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCRtest machines based at the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR) in Accra and the Kumasi Centre for Collaborative Research (KCCR) in Kumasi will be used for the testing. He also added that PCR machines at Korle-Bu, Hohoe, Ho and Tamale will also be used to support the testing drive.

He further revealed that the Genexpert test, a molecular test for TB dotted across 154 districts of the country will also be used. For him, the test-kits that are being donated to the country by international and indigenous corporate bodies will all be used to push the testing drive.

He told the B&FT in an interview that the country wants to follow in the footsteps of South Korea and test as many people possible, get a good picture and launch a plan on how to stop the virus from spreading. “South Korea tested about 200,000 people; we are hoping to test between 100,000 or 150,000,” he said.

Mass Security Officers’ Testing

The presidential advisor again revealed that all the over 900 security officers – which include the Military, Police and National Security who engaged in the mandatory quarantine of 1030 persons who came into the country on the eve of the border closure – will be tested. According to him, some of the officers refused to obey safety protocols; and with the growing positive cases among the quarantined, all the officer will be treated as contact persons and tested.

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“We have about 900 security agents who handled these 1,030 people who have been quarantined. As at 7pm Wednesday, March 25, 2020, over 72 had tested positive. If this figure goes up, we need to test all the security officers; because some of them did not take full care of themselves even though we gave them some protective clothing.

“People think that wearing gloves and masks is very difficult. They have to respect us, the surgeons. Most of them were not well-protected, so we take it that each of them is a contact; therefore, we are going to test all of them, and also their immediate contacts including spouses and children.”

Epicentres

Dr. Nsia Asare told the meeting that authorities managing the nation’s COVID-19 outbreak have well-defined areas where many people are presumed to have been infected with the virus. He mentioned Kumasi and Obuasi in the Ashanti Region, Tema and Accra in the Greater Accra Region, and further zoomed-in on the Ayawaso West Wuogon constituency – with specific mention of East Legon, Dzorwulu, Airport Residential Area and Trasaco.

Ayawaso West Wuogon, most of them travel; you should also know what the dynamics and socio-economic situation and location of people who travel a lot are. They travelled and got infected.

“Luckily for us, it has not gone to Agbogbloshie, Nima and the other places; if it goes there, then we have lost it. That is the reason why we believe we should put in other measures to make sure it doesn’t go beyond these places. These are areas where people can actually do self-quarantine because they have their homes and everything,” he intimated.

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