Dear Regional Minister,
HOW PREPARED IS THE VOLTA REGION TO COMBAT THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC?
Just yesterday, I saw a release from The Volta Regional Coordinating Council signed by your good self on initiatives the region has taken to prevent the entry of the novel coronavirus into the region. I was impressed by the actions taken to safeguard the citizens of your region and I thought it was one that areas yet unaffected could emulate. I woke up this morning thinking through the steps you wish to implement and I thought I could use my expertise to help improve it in order to achieve its intended target. But alas, I guess we were a bit late knowing how sly this virus can be. We have recorded 9 cases as of today April 12, 2020, as part of 566 cases country-wide. It is important now more than ever to move forward in implementing such preventive measures brought forth by the Regional Coordinating Council.
It is important to note that these measures such as closures of markets, screening of travellers entering the region and observation of strict guidelines for drivers as well as social distancing rules were aimed at preventing importation of cases into the region.
At this stage where we have recorded cases, it is important to beef up our efforts at preventing importation of new cases as well as preventing community spread.
In light of this, I would like to suggest these additional measures that will help in our collective efforts to fight coronavirus in the region:
- An immediate closure of entry points.
- If point 1 above would not be possible at this stage and in the absence of testing (would be most ideal) at entry points due to a lack of resources, it is necessary that detailed information of all those entering the region be acquired so that it will be easier to trace them and trace contacts immediately a case is confirmed. A simple bio-data form can be designed for example to get information on how long travellers intend to stay in the region, proper location of where they will stay, purpose of entering the region whether for business, trading or just family visit, details of all passengers in an identified vehicle, etc.
- A two weeks complete lockdown in affected areas, a zoning of such areas within a defined radius and mass testing of all households within the zoned areas to be able to contain potential spread. This is important as a result of available epidemiological information about COVID-19.
- If possible, nose masks should be made available to the public as a matter of urgency and people who will come out to get essential goods should be made to wear nose masks. This is important because recent data available suggest that countries such as Japan, South Korea, Singapore where citizens practice wearing of nose masks as compared to US, Spain, Italy where such practice was non-existent/low have performed better in managing the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact such areas have an almost flat epidemic curve.
- Behaviour change communication should be embarked on with rigorous education on the importance of practising all the hygiene guidelines brought out by the Ghana Health service. One of the challenges facing us as a country in areas currently under lockdown is the lack of understanding of the dangerous nature of this virus and its potential to spread fast and cause deaths. This has led to people flouting lockdown rules.
- Current statistics suggests a differing trajectory of the spread of the virus in Temperate and Tropical countries which may suggest why the virus was struggling to take home in Africa. It is however important to note that we have entered into the rainy/wet season which may provide the needed temperature for the virus to thrive. As such we need to be more cautious in our approach in dealing with this pandemic.
- It will also be important that if possible, testing may not only be limited to cases and immediate contacts just as is being done because until these cases have been confirmed, one would not know how many people they might have come into contact with within their community. As such the ideal situation would be to pick a statistically significant proportion of the population within the community of cases for testing as well. This would be in line with the ice-berg phenomena and would help rule out discrepancies in suspected vs. Actual cases. Whiles authorities do their part, it is important that the general public adheres to preventive guidelines such as:
- Hand-washing with soap under running water
- Use of hand-sanitizers
- Avoiding handshakes and maintaining social distance
- Covering our nose and mouth while coughing and disposing off tissues immediately
- Remember to call emergency numbers (0558439868, 0509497700, 112) when we experience any of the symptoms of fever, flu, cough, chills, especially if we feel we have been exposed. It is important that we all adhere to these guidelines to protect lives.
Taiwan should be a classical example for us as a region not to allow what is happening nationally engulf us.
Let us remain United in our efforts to fight COVID-19.
God Bless Volta Region and Ghana.
Kwame Asiemoah Jr. (MPH)
DVRYO – NDC