I was antsy following the detection of the first two cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID – 19) in Ghana.I kept mulling over how a country with weak systems like ours will contain a disease the world’s superpowers had equally been battling with for months. A day before COVID-19 cases were confirmed in Ghana, President Nana Akufo-Addo said he had directed the Finance Minister to dedicate some 100 million dollars to fight the disease should it find its way into Ghana.” This fund is to finance the expansion of infrastructure, purchase of materials and equipment, and public education,” the President said. This implied that the money was readily available, thus somewhat strengthening the confidence of Ghanaians that money would not be a challenge in fighting the pandemic.
Unfortunately, that was only a façade – the government was still grappling with how to mobilize funds and associated medical equipment required to combat the dreaded virus. The Finance Minister subsequently indicated that government had reached out to the World Bank to benefit from the $12billion Fast Track COVID-19 Facility for Poverty and the $10billion facility managed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to contain the virus. “The assistance from these two institutions when approved will help close the financing gap,” he said.
In simple terms, the government had decided to contact its international partners for funds to contain COVID-19. Anyone who listened to President Akufo-Addo addressing the nation on the measures the Government had put in place to combat the virus would agree with me that the State was determined to secure Ghanaians from this Covid-19.
The excitement was however punctured by the realization that the Government had no resources to effect these noble measures and had, as a matter of fact, chosen to rely on international donors. The government has unashamedly turned to the International Monetary Fund for financial support to combat the novel coronavirus pandemic just like I predicted.
Nothing demonstrated the government’s failure to carefully consider and institute pragmatic ways of containing this virus ahead of the outbreak than the decision to seek foreign aid. There is no denying that dealing with the Covid-19 outbreak in Ghana would require a lot of resources but the manner in which our Government paraded its seeming inability to plan and mobilize internal resources towards this menace only helped to expose the weak systems we have in our country.
Knowing that we have just two centres for testing for the virus, for want of a better word, is just depressing. And to make matters worse, these centres lack adequate kits to effectively discharge their duties.
The bigger problem
It is not the case that Ghana does not have the wherewithal to generate enough revenue to make our systems stronger to protect not only the rich but the poor. Folks such as Ghana’s founding President, Kwame Nkrumah are testaments to the fact that Ghana can be a better place if there is enough dedication and integrity from leaders.
It goes without saying that the issue of corruption and misplaced priorities are the main things hindering Ghana’s progress. Those in power find it more convenient supporting ventures that are totally worthless. They believe it is more convenient to spend GHS390 million on procuring a new biometric system than setting up more testing centres in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.
They believe it is more prudent to build a national cathedral than securing more bins to respond to sanitation challenges in the country. We are quick to resort to prayers in times like these but God even knows that prayers without the use of common sense, coupled with sheer nonchalance will only allow a pandemic like COVID-19 to fester.
Although I appreciate the role of supernatural powers in our lives, I refuse to believe that all our problems will melt at the mention of prayer, there is a part national leadership must play! Our medical response must be satisfactory and this includes having ample testing capabilities and the ability to deploy mass testing. It also includes having adequate intensive care unit beds and enough trained hands to assist. They say that even God helps those who help themselves!
It’s just two weeks since the first two cases were reported and we already have 53. Experts have warned that the numbers will increase before the country sees a downward trend. That is just how it works because the confirmed cases would have interacted with people and might have transferred the virus to them which will begin manifestation in due time.
The President issued some directives, following the confirmation of cases in Ghana and must be commended for the swift and direct nature of those instructions. His willingness to review some of these directives by closing the borders and putting over 1000 people who arrived at the Kotoka International Airport hours before the deadline for the closure of the country’s borders under mandatory self-quarantine is awesome.
It was also heartening to see the Deputy Comptroller-General of the Ghana Immigration Service, Laud Kwesi Afrifa disclosing at a presser on March 19, 2020 that foreigners in countries with over 200 COVID 19 cases were being turned away at the ports too. This is commendable but it should not end there. Other measures should be reviewed to prevent a further spread of the disease, it is the least we can do.
Lastly, although the Government has a primary responsibility to protect her people both in times of tranquillity and otherwise, it behoves all Ghanaians to play their part by judiciously following the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health. Let us all behave and together we shall defeat the virus!
The writer, Marian Ansah, works with Citi FM/TV and citinewsroom.com