SEATTLE, Washington — COVID-19 in Ghana raises significant questions regarding public health, governance, the economy and infrastructure. Ghana’s response to COVID-19 is comprised of cautious but effective policies for the maximization of treatment as well as mitigation of the disease’s spread. COVID-19 has threatened to unravel the nation’s progress. However, it has also provided opportunities for Ghana to display its ingenuity. Below are the top 10 facts about COVID-19 in Ghana.
Top 10 Facts about COVID-19 in Ghana
- Cases To-Date: Ghana recorded a total of 12,929 confirmed COVID-19 cases by June 18, 2020, including 4,468 recoveries and 66 deaths. The Greater Accra Region, encompassing the capital and its suburbs, had suffered the vast majority of cases at 7,573 infected persons. The gender imparity in deaths caused by COVID-19 in Ghana reflects global trends as 58% are male and 42% female.
- First Confirmed Cases: Health Minister Kwaku Agyemang-Manu declared the first two confirmed cases on March 12, 2020. A Ghanaian citizen returning from Turkey tested positive as did a Norwegian diplomat based in Ghana. Before these identifications, 57 individuals tested negative.
- President Akufo-Addo Secures Healthcare Workers’ Salaries: As part of his COVID-19 response, President Nana Akufo-Addo declared the exemption of all healthcare workers from taxation through April, May and June. The government promised an additional payment of 50% of their baseline salary to healthcare workers directly addressing the COVID-19 pandemic from March through June. “Frontline health workers” and related personnel received governmental guarantees of insurance amounting to 350,000 Cedis (approximately $60,068).
- Lockdown Measures: Starting on March 15, 2020, President Nana Akufo-Addo approved lockdown measures prohibiting all public gatherings for four weeks. This policy required the closure of all schools, forcing all lessons online. Nonetheless, BECE and WASSCE standardized test courses would move forward with social distancing standards enforced.
- School Closures: Nationwide school closures highlight regional imbalances in the education system. As more than half of Ghana’s population lacks mobile phone internet access, the switch to online lectures will likely leave a large swathe of Ghana’s youth behind even with Ghana Education Service initiatives to widen access. Thus, on April 3, 2020, the Ministry of Education initiated a standardized test preparation series on TV and the radio as an ameliorative measure.
- COVID-19 Cases Rise After Lifted Lockdown: As of April 20, 2020, Ghana eased its limited lockdown in its main cities. However, within 10 days of lifting restrictions, the number of recorded COVID-19 cases rose by 24%. President Nana Akufo-Addo attributed this increase to a backlog of 18,000 tests. He claimed that most of these infections occurred during the partial lockdown.
- Homeless Citizens At Risk: Ghana’s COVID-19 lockdown and social distancing measures have rendered the homeless at an increased risk of starvation. Accounts exist of police preventing the homeless from receiving government-distributed free meals. Out of desperation, some homeless individuals violated social distancing measures, increasing their COVID-19 exposure risk.
- Ghana’s Food Insecurity: COVID-19 threatens the exacerbation of Ghana’s endemic food insecurity. Although Ghana permitted the operation of food vendors during the lockdown, a lack of earnings and savings renders much of the population unable to buy food items. Concerns exist that this lack of food access may result in malnutrition of the youth, irreversibly stunting growth.
- The Threat of Fake Vaccines: As fraudulent and deadly drugs regularly proliferate throughout Ghana, citizens worry that the COVID-19 crisis will intensify this regional problem. Officials anticipate that once a COVID-19 treatment emerges, fake versions of the vaccine will circulate as lockdown as social distancing measures inhibit regulation. Dr. Paul Newton of the Lao-Oxford-Mahosot Hospital-Wellcome Trust Research Unit stresses the need for international cooperation to clamp down on fake drug distribution.
- Drones Deliver Medical Supplies: Drones supplied by the Silicon Valley-based delivery company Zipline now expedite the distribution of medical supplies in Ghana. Moreover, patient test samples travel from rural regions by drone to the cities of Accra and Kumasi for laboratory testing. The transport of supplies by drones has accelerated the response of more remote and generally underserved communities to this crisis compared with road transport.
COVID-19 in Ghana poses an ongoing threat to citizens’ health and threatens to intensify systemic problems. However, the nation remains resilient. These 10 facts about COVID-19 in Ghana provide reassurance that Ghana will pull through this crisis and reemerge strong.
– Philip Daniel Glass