Evaluating Ghana’s Coronavirus response
By UBAKA OKOFU
There are loads of reasons why one would wish he is Ghanaian and one recent one has to do with the country’s response to the Coronavirus challenge. But even more than this, pundits believe that Ghana is what it is in economic clairvoyance and political consciousness owing to its paltry size, and near homogeneity in language, and other sociological mien.
To some extent, the answer to this would be yes! A little over 30 million citizens is manageable yet, it is not exactly the reason why Ghanaians are seemingly doing well for themselves. The deeper truth may indeed be that the people have learnt that democracy is the bedrock of almost every other great society, and as such they have invested and are still investing in their electoral processes.
This is not to say that elections in Ghana are flawless. There are of course still some noticeable pitfalls in their electoral system. However, these are not to the extent of imposing well known suspected crooks on the people in the name of electing leaders as is very sadly the case in not a few instances with Nigeria.
President Nana Akufo-Addo is also not the first Ghanaian President to have displayed astute intelligence, and a timely and unique approach to issues of national emergency. Almost as a statement of culture, Ghanaian Presidents take responsibility. More importantly, they are swayed by public opinion.
Little wonder that President Akufo was among the first African Presidents to have rolled out economic stimuli in his bid to confront the Covid-19 pandemic. Not only did he roll out economic measures to ameliorate the hardship of Covid-19, his palliatives, stimuli or measures which have in target, small and medium scale businesses have been quite laudable.
And while leaders of neighbouring African countries continue to queue behind the western stereotype of lockdown and other Covid-19 control measures in their respective countries, the Ghanaian President has just relaxed the lockdown in the two major cities of Ghana; Accra and Kumasi, that had been believed to have been adversely affected by the lockdown.
His reasons may not be convincing to those who have poor knowledge of the demographic, sociological and economic mien of the continent. For them, President Akufo-Addo has committed a faux pas, and that it is only a matter of time, dead bodies shall litter the streets of Ghana as had been predicted for Ghana and the rest of the continent by Melinda Gates, wife of the controversial billionaire, Bill Gates.
Unlocking the economy of Ghana didn’t come as a surprise to many that have been keen over happenings there since that country recorded its’ Covid-19 index case on the 12th of March. First, the delicate moves to partially unlock Accra and Kumasi which are the hub of the Ghanaian economy wasn’t arbitrary, but based on careful assessment following a clinical diagnosis of the situation.
Since the index case was recorded on March 12, the curve of subsequent infection has been sluggish, and for over a month the virus has been contained in the two locations. With 1,024 cases of infected persons, and only 9 lives claimed so far by the pandemic, it does not look foolhardy to partially unlock, leaving out schools, social and religious gatherings.
Pertinently, President Akufo-Addo was moved to relax the lockdown after due consultations with cabinet because he was convinced that the country was fairly equipped to give covid-19 a run. For him, there is no looking back, having experimented and mastered the acts of aggressive contact tracing of infected persons, enhanced capacity to test for the virus, expanded numbers of treatment and isolation centres, better dynamism of the virus and expanded capacity to locally produce protective equipment which include face masks, gloves, sanitizers and medicine.
I am sure this is the situation in South Africa and a few other counties of the continent that have taken the fight against Covid-19 beyond the daily rhetoric by government officials. Quite disturbing is the situation in Tanzania where President John Magufuli has been seemingly shunning many necessary precautions to curtail, contain and confront the epidemic. The case of Nigeria is even bizarre because the government of the country has continued to be relatively tardy in the fight against the disease, and perhaps, this is one reason why impoverished Nigerians are even disregarding the widespread deployment of security agents daily by trooping out into the streets in their desire to continue to eke a living. Little wonder that as at last week, there were more deaths in Nigeria from the guns of security agents than the number killed by the epidemic.
Penultimate week, the right hand man of the Nigerian President, Mallam Abba Kyari was killed by the virus. A number of state governors were also briefly in self isolation having hobnobbed with the late Chief of Staff to President Buhari and been suspected to have been infected therein. Nigerians are fluttered with fear because the curve of infected persons, particularly in Lagos, Ogun, Kano and Abuja has refused to flatten. This has also been attributed to government’s seemingly rag-tag approach to tackling the pandemic.
Even though it is antithetical to the warning of the Director General of World Health Organisation, (WHO), that the way down is far more dangerous than the way up, President Akufo’s view that Ghanaians would “tailor their solution to their unique economic and cultural condition” because they won’t subscribe to the “one-size-fits-all-approach” of the west is apt. Particularly deserving of a pat on the back of the Ghanaian team is their ability to ensure that the virus did not move out of Accra and Kumasi. Today, some 25 states in Nigerian have records of the virus after the country recorded its index case on the 27th of February in Lagos.