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Pulse Editorial: The good, bad and ugly of COVID-19 in Ghana

The novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, continues to spread like wildfire across the globe.

COVID-19 in Ghana: The good, bad and ugly

The disease which was first reported in Wuhan city of China has now affected 210 countries and territories around the world and two international conveyances.

The world has recorded over 2.4 million cases and more than 170,000 deaths since its outbreak.

Ghana recorded its first cases of the pandemic on March 12, 2020. These were imported cases, meaning the persons who tested positive travelled into the country with the disease.

In the first two cases for Ghana, the victims came from Norway and Turkey.

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Since Ghana reported its first cases, a lot has changed and happened. The COVD-19 has impacted the country’s health sector, employment, research and above all the economy.

In all of these, there are good, bad and ugly consequences.

But like the age-old saying, “treasure the good, and be prepared for the bad and the ugly”.

By now, you are wondering what good could have emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic which is taking the lives of thousands in the world.

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Well, in Ghana some bright spots we will be explored in this article.

The Good

The undisputed truth is that Ghana is likely to come out from this pandemic with some defences against the virus.

For example, a clear good that has emanated from COVID-19 in Ghana is that scientists at the University of Ghana have successfully sequenced genomes of SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for the global COVID-19 pandemic, obtaining important information about the genetic composition of viral strains in 15 of the confirmed cases in Ghana.

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According to the findings of the two Ghanaian scientists, “ the successful establishment of this sequencing capability at the University of Ghana is a significant milestone in Ghana’s response to the pandemic, as it will strengthen surveillance for tracking mutations of the virus and aid in the tracing of the sources of community infections in people with no known contact with confirmed cases."

Again, scientists in Ghana, like their colleagues around the world, are searching for a vaccine for the virus.

In essence, by the time this pandemic will be gone, Ghana and the world will be armed with better defenses against the next attack.

Another good or positive of the COVID-19 in Ghana is that government has had to pay attention to the country’s health sector and facilities. Ghana is now making available disease treatment centers in some of its medical facilities in the country. In his last update on Sunday, April 26, 2020, HE Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo also outlined plans of building 88 hospitals, a healthcare delivery problem that got exposed by the coronavirus.

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The pandemic has also drawn the attention of Ghanaians to the importance and essence of keeping good personal hygiene. So by the time all of this is over, Ghanaians will all continue to wash their hands with soap under running water, as well as continue to live by the WHO’s measures to help prevent the spread of viral diseases. The other good news is that social distancing is opening a whole new breed of human interaction that will likely change the way we behave forever.

On the good side of things, Ghana so far appears to be doing ‘relatively well’ in containing the virus, with no exponential growth in new infections. The measures adopted by the country in fighting the virus including closure of its borders, extensive testing and a ban on social gatherings plus a 3-week lockdown seem to be working so far.

The Bad

The first bad is how unprepared and unequipped Ghana’s health sector is. In the heat of the COVID-19 in Ghana, it became obvious the country’s health facilities lacked certain basic things, like the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) needed to execute tasks in most cases. Healthcare workers rely on personal protective equipment to protect themselves and their patients from being infected and infecting others.

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The shortages and unavailability of PPEs left doctors, nurses and other frontline workers dangerously ill-equipped to cater for COVID-19 patients, due to limited access to supplies such as gloves, medical masks, respirators, goggles, face shields, gowns, and aprons.

Another downside is the congestion in our spaces, in relation to where and how the majority of Ghanaians live. Social distancing is one key measure to observe if we want to curb the spread of the deadly coronavirus. But the architecture of how some of our public structures and spaces, like the markets, have clearly shown that Ghana's struggles with enforcing social distancing.

Also, the three-week lockdown spelled bad news for the economy and employment.

Another bad that the COVID-19 has revealed is how Ghana’s informal economy is structured. The partial lockdown in Accra, Tema, Kumasi, and Kasoa literally brought stress on the country’s economy and on the lives of majority of Ghanaians. Our economy stopped growing and might be heading toward a significant dip before it picks up again.

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It is estimated that the negative economic consequences of COVID-19 will continue to manifest long after the virus is brought under control. Despite Ghana not being alone in this, the large informal sector of its economy made the lockdown process a difficult one.

The Ugly

Ghana may be one of the counties in the world with a very insignificant number of deaths from the COVID-19 so far. However, every life lost is a big deal and families and loved ones always feel the pain most.

Apart from that, it has been revealed that bodies of people who succumb to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) will not be released to the bereaved families for burial.

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Rather, the state will take charge of the burial within the shortest possible time after the death, in consultation with the bereaved family. This is because the infection is highly contagious and the virus remains active for a while after a victim passes on.

With Ghana's culture around the dead and the burden this puts on the state, this can’t get any worse!

Another ugly thing that comes to mind about COVID-19 in Ghana is the poor implementation of government's initiative to feed the poor and vulnerable during the lockdown. With the breaking of all social distance rules, Ghana could be up for a real challenge if the virus was by any means spread during a time of helping the vulnerable. My colleague, Kwame Boakye captures it succinctly in his article; "How Ghana could be spending $350K a day to aid the spread of coronavirus".

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