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The illogic of relaxing coronavirus restrictions

Fri, 12 Jun 2020 Source: Goldstreet Business

Ghana is now firmly on the path of relaxing the erstwhile restrictions on social and economic activities around the country as a means of curbing the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. This in line with the predominant trend all around the world, including in the worst hit countries.

Simply put, governments worldwide are giving in to the clearly stated desires of their respective citizenries, that they prefer to risk infection and consequent possible death, than continue to suffer stringent restrictions on their socio-economic activities. The situation in Ghana is no different.

Consequently, Ghana is easing back the restrictions imposed when the confirmed coronavirus case count was barely 200, at a time that the case count is on the verge of topping 10,000.

Considering the data – which government claims is guiding its policy decisions – this is illogical to put it mildly. Indeed it makes clear the fact that just like with most other countries around the world, it is political and economic considerations that are guiding public policy.

While this is unsurprising, especially where general elections determine who gets to be in power, Ghana’s situation is particularly worrying for two fundamental reasons.

One is that because so far Ghana has suffered far less infections per head than most of the western hemisphere nations whose data dominates the international news headlines, many, if not most Ghanaians still fail to recognize the possibility of infection as a true clear and present danger.

Unlike in, say America, Britain or Italy, the average Ghanaian does not even personally know anyone that has been infected and therefore cannot identify with the danger in concrete terms.

Indeed worryingly, there are many Ghanaians who truly believe that the case count is being grossly exaggerated by government in order to solicit for foreign aid. Thus most Ghanaians cannot be relied on to apply self-discipline in adopting crucial protocols to curb the spread of the infection.

But it is instructive that one of the largest Pentecostal churches in Ghana – the only one founded and still headed by a fully qualified medical doctor – has opted not to re-open despite the easing of the ban on church services, out of concern for the well-being of its congregation.

The other reason is that some government health institutions are already warning that they have run out of response capacity with regards to isolating and treating COVID-19 cases.

This reflects Ghana’s well documented lack of response capacity. It also serves ominous warning that going forward, the country’s enviably low fatality ratio will not be sustained, even as the number of confirmed cases continues to accelerate in absolute terms.

This newspaper, just like other enterprises and institutions all around Ghana, has been severely affected by the COVID-19 outbreak and the necessary policy measures taken since March to curb its spread.

But between the inconveniences we are suffering, as severe as they are, and the alternative of infection of our shareholders, staff, business associates, readers and advertisers, we loudly proclaim our preference for the former.

Ghana should chart its own path, derived from its peculiar circumstances and government has the responsibility of protecting its citizens from both their own ignorance and the machinations of those who would be willing to see more infections and deaths just to get ammunition with which to accuse it of incompetence.

Columnist: Goldstreet Business
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