Do you know the origin of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) that has become a global pandemic and bringing down big economies like China, Italy, United States of America, Germany and the rest?

Scientists say viruses are not naturally occurring and are man-made. However, new research according to scientists, COVID-19 is not man-made. It is known that viruses do not have cells of their own and therefore needs the cell of a living host to survive. Many have suggested that most of these viruses’ humanity experienced like the Influenza virus, Ebola virus, Human Immunodeficiency virus and so on were intentionally designed as a weapon to annihilate competitors and enemies. I cannot speak to the veracity or otherwise of such conspiracy theories. Well what is concrete is Ghana has recorded its 21st positive case of Covid-19.

So what is most important? Is it how this affects us as Ghanaians and/or what roles we play in fighting against this virus bearing in mind our low-middle income economic status? Is Ghana not a country where a vast majority still live under the poverty line, have lower access to portable water, poor access to quality foods, housing and healthcare? Indeed, President Akufo-Addo announced a 100 million dollars to fight Covid-19 which generated some controversy as to the quantum, where the money is coming from and how it will be disbursed. Where is the money actually going to? Has the President considered the economic impact of this pandemic? When countries we emulate like the United States, Canada and Italy are applying socialist interventions to bailout and put money in the hands of the poor and workers who will be negatively affected by this crisis.

Desperate times require desperate measures even if it does not align with your ideology. Ghana however, is yet to announce any such concrete intervention. As a matter of fact, I thought the $100 million was to build an ultramodern research facility that could serve the West African sub-region to mitigate our health need. Have we not become like the rat in Skinner’s box lacking the ability to conceptualise solutions to present and future problems? We are quick to pump monies into everything that appears as an emergency and end up not using the funds for its intended purpose. Do we always need crises like this to wake us up?

In any case, I was not happy the manner in which the first two (2) cases recorded were handled. I wondered why the names of the victims were not mentioned until did some enquiries and found out that the Norwegian ambassador Gunnar Andreas Holm was one of the victims and had on arrival to Ghana interacted with people from the Norwegian embassy, German Swiss School, officials from UNDP and Head potters popularly known as Kayayei. Immediately the German- Swiss school suspended school for 2 weeks which was very laudable. Meanwhile, our government was hiding the identities of the two. Was it because they were bereft of ideas or felt a little anxiety. Notable people like Justin Trudeau (Canada), Idris Elba (United Kingdom), Peter Dutton (Australia), Jeremy Issacharoff (Israel), Nadine Dorries (United Kingdom) and other influential people tested positive for the virus and took to public and announced which made people more aware, careful and trusting of their public officials.

Nevertheless, many have said that this pandemic is a blessing in disguise. Notice no Ghanaian is travelling abroad either for some treatment or hide there until the crises is over? Can they trust our health system? Are most of them not returning? Has it not exposed major problems in our public health system including the lack of logistics to carry out health activities and our triage system in terms of public health crises? Will the $100 million be used to procure the needed equipment? Can healthcare workers have some confidence to provide healthcare to patients who suffer from the infection? A section of the health workforce who are mostly the first and always the last to be in contact with patients are nurses.

The Ghana Registered Nurses and Midwives Association issued a press release stating and encouraging its members among other things to stay off any isolation ward if protective equipment were not provided. Is this not a good opportunity for nurses to demand better conditions of service including health and life insurance? The government through the Ghana Health service says they are providing logistics, training and protective equipment throughout the country. Just after the first 2 cases of COVID-19 was announced and before the announcements of logistical resources were made, St. Joseph’s Health Centre at Kalba a community – bordered to the west by Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast – in the Savannah region of Ghana had constituted a committee and trained its staff to the best of their knowledge on the epidemic. This is very laudable and I believe they set the pace for other health facilities at border towns to follow. But with the markets in these areas always flooded by our fellow brothers from these countries the possibility to import infection is very high. Should the borders be closed? In the unlikely event there is an outbreak, how can they cope and deal with them. IT IS COMMON KNOWLEDGE THAT IN OUR PUBLIC HEALTHCARE SYSTEM, RESOURCES TARGETED AT VULNERABLE PEOPLE DO NOT GET TO THEM ON TIME AND WHEN THEY DO, ABOUT HALF WOULD HAVE DISAPPEARED THROUGH CORRUPTION AND MISMANAGEMENT. I am quite worried that this trend might continue even with the $100 million dollars announced by his Excellency the president. Government directives must be followed through and OUR HEALTH LEADERS MUST SHOW COMPASSION, INTEGRITY AND ETHICS AT ALL TIMES BECAUSE HEALTH FINANCING IS A BIG PROBLEM. THEREFORE, THE LITTLE WE GET SHOULD BE APPLIED EFFICIENTLY FOR MAXIMUM OUTCOMES AND SUSTAINED IMPACT.

However, government must endeavour to pay the arrears owed them by the Health Insurance Scheme for services provided with some dating back to 2016. To my amazement, I saw one facility’s balance sheet and I was very sad. These Health facilities have been running on fumes for the past 4 to 5 years and it does not order well for a country who wants to meet the Sustainable Development Goal 3. These health facilities especially those at the border areas in the North of Ghana have not received any logistics in terms of training, Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs), Hand sanitisers, Soaps and other materials as promised.

Besides, as part of the measures and protocols outlined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) is to wash hands with soap, clean with tissue and use alcohol-based hand sanitisers. Ghana will benefit immensely because there will be an exponential increase in handwashing which improves the personal hygiene of people impacting positively on our health. It is a sure way to reduce and prevent the spread of the infectious agent (Coronavirus). But for many Ghanaians, this is a big challenge. Many do not have access to portable water for their daily activities. Some travel distances to fetch water from dugouts shared with other animals. This defeats the WHO protocol on handwashing for infection prevention.

Richard Buabeng is a Mental Nurse–Ghana Health Service, Regional Coordinator – Africa, HRDS India