‘COVID-19 has taught us to prioritise local production’

Ashanti Region Minister, Simon Osei Mensah, being interviewed by journalists during the first market disinfection exercise in Kumasi

While the COVID-19 pandemic has brought devastating impacts on the economy and the health infrastructure, a key lesson the disease has taught is the need to prioritise local production and consumption, the Ashanti Region Minister, Simon Osei Mensah, has said.

He observed that with the advent of the disease’ global spread, leading to hoarding and shortage of several essential items due to shutdown of cities, borders and businesses, producing locally to meet demand became particularly important.

The situation, he said, encouraged the release of some idle government lands, for instance, in the Ashanti Region to some local farmers for agricultural purposes. He said if the outbreak of COVID-19 had continued at the same rate it started initially, with borders being shut amid dwindling global production, food items would have been difficult to get.

Against these developments the minister emphasised that local production and consumption is the way to go, and in view this recognised the success recorded under government’s flagship agricultural initiative, Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ).

This initiative, which promoted the cultivation of maize, rice and other food crops on large scale, he noted, saved Ghanaians from experiencing any severe food shortage in the midst of the pandemic despite some recorded impacts on the country’s food system.

The Ashanti Region Minister said this happening should prompt all Ghanaians to commit to production and consumption of food locally, while importing some as and when necessary.

Mr. Mensah, who was speaking at the launch of COVID-19 Recovery Plan and Integrated Assembly Financing Framework for Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs), however expressed concern at the rate of COVID-19 infections in the region.

He disclosed that as at January 8, 2021, the total number of confirmed positive cases was 79. Out of this, 72 had been placed on homecare while 7 were on admission at the COVID-19 treatment centre. However, the case-count more than doubled in the region – recording a total of 247 within a week. He said 237 of the cases have been placed on homecare, with 10 on admission.

He therefore cautioned the public to adhere strictly to wearing nose masks, handwashing and all the other COVID-19 preventive protocols announced by government and health authorities.

The COVID-19 Recovery Plan and Integrated Assembly Financing Framework for MMDAs was initiated by the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC) and Ministry of Finance (MoF), in partnership with UNDP. The aim is to support district assemblies to build back better from the impact of COVID-19, and build resilience against local and external shocks.

The Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly’s lead clinician for COVID-19 Response, Dr. Ernest Kwarko, speaking in an interview at the ceremony’s sidelines, said people must learn to live with the discomfort of wearing a mask at all times.

He noted that new strain of the virus has been discovered in some countries, including the UK and South Africa, and with travellers still flying into the country from these places, failure to adhere to the COVID-19 preventive protocols – especially the wearing of masks – could be disastrous.

This, he said, could increase the infectivity rate and bring undue pressure on available treatment centres. “We don’t have the capacity, so we plead with everybody that all the protocols which have been employed to bring down the pandemic in our part of the world must be re-employed.”

Dr. Kwarko cautioned that people should not be reliant on the idea that there is a vaccine. Given developments in the vaccine producing countries, he noted that it is not possible to practically have the vaccine any moment soon. He projected that Ghana could likely secure the vaccine by June. “We need to start putting our infrastructure together for the delivery.”

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