In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, we have seen Ghanaian local industries and scientists rise to the challenge of providing basic personal protection kits, conducting international standard research, and testing of Corona cases. From genome sequencing of the virus to production of hand sanitizers, let us appreciate the efforts made as a country to confront the insidious virus, and then proceed to ask ourselves some questions.
Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR) and West African Centre for Cell Biology and Infectious Pathogens (WACCBIP) Scientists at the NMIMR and WACCBIP successfully sequenced genomes of the SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for the COVID 19 pandemic. In other words, Ghanaian scientists have been able to compile the genetic make-up of the virus, and this allows them to be able to track if any new mutations are emerging locally.
This is a significant feat in the fight against the virus, as the research from our heroic scientists will play a role in the production of a vaccine against the virus.
The NNMIR also deployed the brilliant plan of pool sampling, which expanded Ghana’s testing capacity by several fold, making Ghana the second African country to have carried out the most tests.
Facemasks and Face shields
There was a scarcity of face masks for the general population by the time the first Corona virus case was reported in Ghana. The available face masks recommended by WHO (N95, KN 9 surgical masks) cost an arm and a leg. The local fabric and dress making industry commenced the commercial production of simple and cheap facemasks for public use, once the acceptable guidelines were released by the FDA.
Facemasks have now been incorporated into fashion. African print clothes are completed with a matching face mask. Companies like GTP have mounted billboards with models wearing facemasks with the same fabric as their clothes, contributing to the appeal for facemasks.
Indigenous companies also begun production of affordable FDA approved face shields.
Interesting designs for hand wash stands have been introduced since the start of the pandemic. The best designs have been those that completely eliminate the need to use your hand to get soap and water. These very functional washstands come with holders for veronica buckets, liquid soap and tissue.
The handwash stands come with pedals, which when pressed, allow for the dispensation of water and liquid soap without using hands to touch taps. These are being manufactured by local metal workers at a good cost.
By the end of March, 2020, more than fifty locally manufactured hand sanitizers had been registered by the Food and Drugs Authority. Imported hand sanitizers which were overpriced at the start of the pandemic, experienced a steep fall in prices. Our heroes, local sanitizer makers, levelled the market and made the precious commodity easily accessible to all.
Were Ghanaian scientists capable of genome sequencing all along, or it was fast acquired for Covid19 purposes? Local metal workers could have made –hand wash stands to help the handwashing campaign in schools all along? Hand sanitizers could have been manufactured locally and possibly distributed to schools where water for handwashing was lacking all along? If we could follow guidelines for production of home-made face masks, then we can surely follow to produce international standard face-masks, can’t we? Did we have to wait for Covid-19 to shift into problem solving mode?
Maybe we need more pandemics!
Maybe it was the realisation that help would come from nowhere that propelled us to use what we have to meet our basic needs as far as Covid-19 is concerned. Maybe we need more world wide plagues to push the local industries to create solutions. We should not wait for government help. We perhaps need another strange pestilence to see the forte of scientists and engineers in the country.
It is unfortunate that dire situations were the propelling force for us taking matters into our own hands. Hopefully, the good work started by our industries will not go to sleep till the next pandemic.