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Barima’s Beefs VI. It’s not over yet – we still need to take the COVID seriously

Ghana has gone from an impressive first response to the threat of COVID-19 during the first half of the year to a slack disregard for public health in the peak campaign period

COVID-19 has undoubtedly been the biggest event of this year, and when it first broke, countries all over the world took measures to prevent its spread. However, as time has gone by and measures have been relaxed, it is almost as if some countries such as Ghana, which acted more quickly than most, are back to normal even though the virus is still very much present.

One would assume that, with COVID-19 still looming, we citizens would be following the safety protocols while going about our daily activities. Shockingly, however, that is not the practice.

People have thrown caution to the wind. To see anyone wearing a mask these days is akin to not finding gari in a boarder’s chop box. When you do see a mask, often it’s hanging from the person’s neck like a makeshift beard or it is worn around the mouth only.

Chin accessory

To add insult to injury, people have begun to attend events such as funerals and weddings without any recourse to social distancing.

This is not hard to verify. Just check your social media. You will most likely find it awash with people partying away with no respect for the safety measures.

After watching the clips of social event after social event, one might be forgiven for thinking that COVID was nothing but a figment of the imagination.

One might expect our political leaders, especially those in the NPP and the NDC, to lead by example and urge Ghanaians to follow the COVID-19 protocols, but that is not the case. President Akufo-Addo has been busily touring the country, commissioning and launching projects, and John Mahama, the main opposition candidate, has embarked on speaking tours across all the regions.

“Health walks” are also being organised in the constituencies. These are characterised by large crowds meeting politicians, and it is obvious from most of the footage and pictures that the crowds are not adhering to even the most basic of COVID protocols.

Thankfully, early this month, the NPP banned health walks and mini rallies, citing concerns over the flouting of COVID protocols. The president, however, is still pursuing his campaign, which, of course, draws massive crowds. Nothing has been heard from the main opposition party, however. In fact, the NDC will be organising a “Probity and Accountability” march on Thursday (26 November) to “honour its founder, Jerry John Rawlings”, who passed away on 12 November. Celebrities such as Stonebwoy also seem to be attracting similar crowds.

Time to crank up

Meanwhile, concerns have been voiced about the country’s diminishing efforts to combat the coronavirus. While Ghana was commended across the world in the early stages of the pandemic for its handling of the virus, something seems to have gone awry.

According to this graph by the data scientist Alfred Appiah, testing done from September onwards is way lower than testing between June and August.

COVID spread

He believes that, “due to limited testing, the number of confirmed cases may be lower than the actual number of cases in the country”. This does not bode well for Ghana’s efforts to fight the virus.

The fact is, we are heading towards a momentous surge in the national number of cases if we don’t buck up. The government needs to crank up its efforts to combat the disease and public health officials must carry out serious sensitisation on the adverse effects of the virus. Political candidates need to scale back on their campaign activities and find smarter ways of reaching voters, ways that won’t contribute hugely to our case count.

Personal responsibility cannot be forgotten in all this. Ghana’s efforts to combat these diseases would be much more effective if we adhered to the protocols we all know we know and avoided going to gatherings which could accelerate the spread of the virus. It’s really that simple. And I believe we can do it.

Deo volente!

Barima Peprah-Agyemang

Barima Peprah-Agyemang is a writer and co-founder of Akensie, a newly released Ghanaian trivia app available now through the App Store. He resides primarily in Sunyani in his native Bono Region

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