Since the spread of corona virus disease 19 (COVID 19) most African countries have embarked on a system of total or partial lock down and some want to use it as a tool for curbing the spread of COVID 19. There have been different opinions whether lock down can be of help and is it any of the public health policies and can it bring up massive and tremendous change to the spread of pandemic or has there been an effect on the general economy of African countries.
The purpose of lockdown is intended to stop people from moving between places, it could also mean putting data in place to record the movement of people from place to place in a particular location. Lock downs could involve cancelling of flights both domestic and international, closing borders, closing down shops, restaurants, schools, churches etc with the main idea by governments to reduce the influx of people to stop transmission of a disease outbreak.
Almost all the African countries are inadequately prepared to deal with the exponential spread of COVID 19 with its pseudo recovery and recovery features and Ghana is no exception coupled with weak health systems, scanty resources, economic and spatial inadequacies on lock down and massive restriction orders from governments. The number of COVID 19 cases in Africa has quickly risen to more than 10,000 and the death rate exceeds 500 and this can be termed as above global average. This steady increasing high death rate in the continent but with less number of confirmed cases should tell us that Africa is rather doing very low rate of COVID 19 testing and this can be fatal and deadly if proper public health interventions are not quickly put in place.
The government of Ghana and most African countries have imposed restrictions on imports and exports, closed both international and local borders with neighboring and afar countries, supply and procurement chains disrupted, most industries and production companies have halted operations and definitely such shall have serious and dire effect on general inflation and gross domestic product with Ghana not exception. According to the African union up to 20 million jobs in the formal and informal sectors in Africa could be lost because of COVID 19 and Ghana was now resurrecting from high level of unemployment rate before this COVID 19 pandemic.
The African union has also stated that a 35% dip in exports and imports would be worth $270 billion, yet Africa will require $ 130 billion to fight against the spread of the virus and medical treatments. African leaders were to learn effectively from the Ebola epidemic in 2014 and were to design strong policies and set up budgets for emergencies, set up well equipped research laboratory centers for infectious diseases in many parts of their countries, employ more medical research scientist and create budgetary funding for such purposes. If these were done then Ghana and most of her sister countries at this time would be and shall have the human resource, testing dynamics and creating of temporal immediate methods of rapid diagnosis to help deal with this pandemic.
Most governments in Africa tend to concentrate more of political goals and points than science and technology and this is the fall of Africa and the deficit it creates when natural disasters happen. All is not lost and as African countries and governments suffer, most may and can and should learn from this COVID 19 pandemic and give more room for science and technology in the very field of biomedical and health sciences to prevail to develop Africa.
Ghana per say is currently one of the luckiest African nations in the fight of COVID 19 pandemic since the immediate past president wanting to support the excellent policies the incumbent government has kept in place, has also formed a supplementary team to support the citizenry through public education, sharing and distributing of PPEs, medical consumables, cash donations, food etc to accredited facilities and deprived communities.
According to the writers, the government of Ghana decision to lift the lockown is in the spirit of good public health practice and economy friendly. Such a bold measure can be effective to curb the continuous spread of COVID 19 as other health experts have varied views on the Presidents’ decision and can improve the local economy when persons respect and adhere to preventive guide lines from the world health organization, ministry of health Ghana, ministry of information Ghana and the Ghana health services of staying at home when outing is not urgent and of emergency, washing hands under running water with soap, applying alcohol based hand sanitizers, using face mask when going out and even in the comfort of their homes especially for those living in commercial houses and apartments and flats that share car parks, gymnasium etc.
The writers see what the government of Ghana has done in lifting the lockdown a pragmatic step to open up for domestic trade and can improve the local economy and also the spread of COVID 19 most importantly if Ghana can learn from pacesetter countries like the Asian giants (Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong), who aggressively tackled the COVID 19 pandemic without any lock down and any draconian orders on the citizenry.
This is a good start for Ghana and is a clarion call for African countries especially those in the west to emulate Ghana and adapt most of the policies, interventions the current government of Ghana has kept in place for the benefit of citizens and the steady tactics of fighting the COVID 19 pandemic although Ghana has a long way to go and a lot to put in place to achieve the optimum.
The writers advise and plead with African leaders, most importantly, the government of Ghana who have lifted the domestic partial lock down to continue the strong collaboration with the world health organization, other international and local health authorities and relevant agencies to above all ensure and insist on effective public health interventions of social distancing, self isolation, quarantine even if the pandemic curve flattens and reduced to its lowest minimum until some sort of herd immunity, vaccine or drug of choice gained on COVID 19.
Finally it is inevitable and deadly at this crucial stage to forget or relent on the powerful public health intervention of mass testing using a rapid result kit or technique that can produce results within 10 to 15 minutes, tracing and treatment which has been a proven approach to diseases outbreak.
The view of the writers are that lock down seem to be of a politically enforced measure than a public health policy, lockdown is not a cure and has never been a cure and would not be a cure to any pandemic when proper public health interventions are not put in place by various governments and should not be the main weapon by African governments to fight the COVID 19 pandemic. As demonstrated and proven by the Asian giants (Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan) who never embarked on draconian lock down methods and intensive restriction orders, Ghana and Africa can emulate the basics of such interventions from the Asian giants.
Richard Owusu Nyarko (Bsc, MHCM, MBA), Registered Senior Health Practitioner and a trainee in medicine and surgery, GHANA
Christian Asum (Bsc, MNAG, MD – on going) Senior Clinician and Doctor of Medicine student, RWANDA
Bertram Asare (Bsc, BsN, rn), Senior Clinician with Neurology intensive care unit, Korlebu Teaching Hospital Accra
Ivan Kahwa (Bsc Ed, Msc Pharmacognosy, MPH, Mphil Epidemiology, (Ph.D Natural medicine Science - on going ) Pharmacognosist, Epidemiologist and Research scientist UGANDA
Paul Owusu Boateng (Bsc, MBBS, M,Chir- on going), Medical doctor still in training, CHINA