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Coronavirus: Melinda Gate’s warning, and Africa’s soaring case counts

Fri, 10 Jul 2020 Source: Emmanuel Boateng Agyemfra

“When you find your brother’s beard on fire, you put water beside you” - Akan Proverb.

Early in April, when COVID-19 was an only a TV show for the continent when the death tolls we heard and watched seemed massaged just to put fear in Africa to sit up; experts and governments collaborated to find solutions to reduce the hikes in case counts.

The co-chair of Bill and Melinda Gates, Mrs Melinda Gates, in an interview with CNN, made some sane, objective and bitter truth projections that was welcomed here in Africa with insinuations, and curses on the head of a woman who together with her husband support our continent more than we do ourselves.

Her comments, “It is going to be terrible in the developing world” was carried on most international portals and headlined as “Expect more dead bodies in the streets of Africa” because she made an example to Ecuador where cemeteries were full and relatives had to queue on the streets with the dead bodies.

As at the time of writing this piece, the latest data from the John Hopkins University Hospital and Africa Center for Disease Control on COVID-19, stood at 522,643 cases, 256,466 Active cases, 252,944 recoveries and 12,233 deaths.

Africa’s cases keep soaring even after laid down measures put in place to curb the spread and it is attributed to some these factors.

Negligence

After Melinda Gate’s comments on why Africa should be fast on taking precautionary measures serious to avoid the ill fate that fell on Ecuador, Spain, China and the Americas who have recorded thousands of deaths by then, most African countries eased restrictions so to help revive their economies but that is how some people took things for granted and case counts saw major hikes.

When businesses were asked to open but adhere to COVID-19 protocols, people for a while adhered to the precautionary measures, but as time went on, they started flouting the protocols;

Commercial buses through an EI were asked to make sure all passengers wear nose masks before boarding their vehicles, but this law have been overlooked. When case counts were in their hundreds, people were seen patronizing veronica buckets but soaring up to 24,000 case counts here in Ghana, we barely see people or institutions enforcing it.

We have had Head of States flouting COVID protocols, contracting and infecting close relatives. The late 55-year-old Burundi President passed away via COVID-19 and was later followed by his innocent mother.

John Magafuli of Tanzania believes only prayers can help curb the pandemic, yes, no doubts but it does not also mean common sense should be thrown to the dogs. Whiles other countries were shutting down airports and borders, he was gladly opening his country to visitors and also not paying much attention to testing.

Weak health system

The World Health Organization, far back in February said there will be a dramatic evolution of the pandemic in Africa, even though governments are doing their best to curb the spread.

“The continent appears poorly equipped to manage a major health crisis and is struggling to test enough to monitor the virus,” they said.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have been very instrumental in the fight against malaria, improving sanitation among other interventions. These people do not just come here to help but also do put themselves in our shoes; so she knew exactly why she was so worried about how if care is not taken, our cases will soar and we would not be able to control it.

According to the World Health Organization’s Health Care Index, most countries are doing well with health care provision but from the look of the death tolls and active cases, the weak fundamentals with our health sector on the continent will expose us.

In the wake of the pandemic, Chinese Billionaire Jack Ma donated millions of nose masks to African countries. After that, countries like Ghana, through the Food and Drugs Authority gave clearance to companies to produce homemade masks all in a way to curb the spread.

Whether we like it or not, Africa will be the most vulnerable among all other continents if much attention is not given to precautionary measures.

In Ghana, the President of the Registered Nurses and Midwifery Association, Mrs Perpetual Ofori Annan in a Press conference has said, 779 Health workers have contracted the disease and attribute it on the inadequate provision of PPEs.

She called on the government to redefine the Frontline workers category since most of those who contracted the disease under her umbrella, were not at the response centres but the normal hospitals and clinics.

The President of Ghana, H.E Nana Addo Dankwa, has pledged to get additional 88 hospitals to augment the already existing ones and equip them to fight the pandemic and we pray it comes to pass.

If our health system is battling all these, should we not be fast and sit up as Melinda Gates said in April? The porous nature of our health system should make us adhere to the safety protocols because most of the Doctors and Nurses who will attend to you are also getting infected.

Social system

Melinda made mention in that CNN interview that, she has been to most slums in Africa and can attest to the fact that, adherence to physical and social distancing would be very difficult but advised Africa should be fast in finding ways to enforce it.

We have an accommodating social system that thrives on family meetings, handshakes, hugs among others to foster unity and love. COVID-19 have come to make all these undoable and we as a people must cope or die from this pandemic.

Attendance for Funerals, marriage ceremonies, political rallies were limited to 25 when the nation was on lockdown but as the President reviewed the numbers to 100; most programmes you watch on TV and on social media sites have people numbering over 100 whiles they call the bluff of nose masks and physical distancing.

These ceremonies bring us joy as a people, but the least negligence will cost us dear ones we never thought of loosing.

Holding programmes with even less than 100 people and or going virtual wouldn’t take the beauty away since the celebrants and audience lives matter.

It is not for nothing that churches and mosques have been strictly asked to abide by all the protocols with all seriousness; all for our good.

Conclusion

The World Health Organization does not even understand the virus; so we need to be on guard and not stop praying as well.

No country will ever go on total lockdown, lock factories forever, lock schools forever; what governments and the WHO as it stands can do is to manage the disease with adherence to protocols and reporting to the COVID response team of symptoms.

Until there is a vaccine, we cannot take chances as a continent knowing how vulnerable we are to a health crisis. The impacts of Ebola are still felt in some countries.

Columnist: Emmanuel Boateng Agyemfra
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