Opinions Sun, 12 Jul 2020

Coronavirus: Stop! look! listen!

In the days when the Ghana railway system was a going concern, there used to be a big red warning some yards from a level railway crossing, ordering motorists who were going towards the crossing to “STOP!... LOOK!....LISTEN!”

So deadly did the authorities of the time realise would be the result of a collision between a train and a motor vehicle that they wanted the motorist to heed their warning with every faculty of the human body: first of all, apply the brakes to stop the vehicle. Then look to see whether there was a puff of smoke in the distance anywhere along the railway line. Next, listen to any noise that marked the progress of a train. It was only when the motorist had satisfied himself on all three counts that he could proceed.

The reasons for the triple were these: a motorist might not see any sign of a train approaching. But he could hear the sound of the train. In any case, if he had stopped, there would be no danger of the train running into his vehicle, even if he neither saw, nor heard, it coming.

But even so, many level crossings had A MAN HOLDING A RED FLAG standing by A GATE across the motor road that could be opened and closed. However, in spite of all these precautions, collisions between trains and motor vehicles sometimes actually occurred! But in general, the system put to practical use, the old adage that “prevention is better than cure!”

In my view, Ghana has reached a stage in its handling of COVID-19 that requires our Government to STOP! LOOK AND LISTEN!, or else face a catastrophic collision with the pestilence that will make a collision between a train and a motor vehicle look like child's play.

Listen: NAPO, the doctor who is our Minister of Education, says that 90 percent of the staff at his Ministry have tested positive for COVID-19. What would have happened had he not got them tested? They would be walking amongst the populace, wouldn't they, passing the disease on? No-one would have been able to trace ALL their contacts, even if adequate testing equipment had been available. Since the disease often shows no visible signs of its presence in a person – in other words, it can be “asymptomatic” in nature – the more people it infected, the more people it could continue infecting without anyone noticing! Until they were TESTED!

The Ministry of Finance, too, has sent many of its personnel home, for fear that they have been infected.

Finally, have you heard of what happened at Accra Girls' High School and the KNUST high school at Kumase? Have you heard of the numerous reports emanating from public institutions complaining that some of their staff have contracted the disease?

With the best will in the world, our Government simply cannot tackle the disease in its entirety, head-on. We don't have enough testing equipment. Neither do we have enough Personal Protection Equipment. Nor are our hospitals equipped with enough ICUs to handle every possible case of Covid-19 infection referred to them.

These are the factors that are putting undue pressure on our health authorities. Hear what the Health Minister had to say about the situation currently facing the country [after he had himself been discharged from hospital, where he had successfully recovered from Covid-19]:

“....Mr Kwaku Agyeman-Manu has stated that the Government is fatigued by the increasing cases of Coronavirus in the country, despite numerous interventions and public education on the disease.

“According to the Minister, many of the positive cases could soon turn into critical conditions if care is not taken. He said both the President and Health officials at the forefront are already tired, adding that Ghanaians must take personal responsibility to protect themselves from contracting the virus.

“If we don’t do that, the virus will continue to spread. Our positive cases continue to increase, if we are not careful the positive cases will turn into critical illness. [The President] Nana [Akufo-] Addo is tired. Those of us leading the fight are fatigued because we have done all that we could to defeat the virus but people are not adhering to the preventive protocols. So I am begging everyone to adhere to hand washing, social distancing and [the directives on the] wearing of masks”.

Now, the Minister was candid about the condition of those in the front-line of the battle against Covid-19. But, unfortunately, he was not so forthcoming about some of the measures which his “tired” Government had either instituted or which have been instituted by other organisations and whose implementation the Government has condoned, and which can only help Covid-19 to fester within the Ghanaian community.

First in importance is the registration of voters for the 2020 elections. Everyone in Ghana is aware – or should be aware by now – that the congregation of large numbers of people in any particular spot helps spread Covid-19. And also, that not all Ghanaians take the disease seriously enough to wholeheartedly obey the guidelines laid down for preventing its spread.

Yet the Government, whilst knowing this, has allowed the Electoral Commission to use the law to create a situation in which these two deadly factors have “co-mingled” to pose a threat to the lives of whole swathes of our populace.

Added to this is the reopening of schools populated by students who may have acquired bad habits from their homes, but who are now housed in facilities without adequate resources to take care of them if the disease strikes their schools.

Surely, there are too many risky factors in our lives, right now, to persuade our Government to “STOP, LOOK AND LISTEN?”
Columnist: Cameron Duodu
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