On 11th March, 2020, the President of the Republic of Ghana, Nana Addo-Danquah Akufo Addo, first addressed the nation on the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) which is fast spreading to most countries globally. The address was dubbed: “Coronavirus: Update on enhanced measures taken by the government”. Then, there had not been any positive cases yet and measures were being put in place to prevent possible entry of persons with the virus and contain in the case of any possible positive case(s).
These measures were taken in the wake of the World Health Organization (WHO) announcing COVID-19 as a global pandemic and required that the nation got up to speed with some additional measures to shore up response mechanisms. Some African countries had recorded some positive cases including some of Ghana’s neighbouring countries with whom borders are shared; Burkina Faso to the north, Togo to our east and Ivory Coast to the west. As at 11th March, 2020, 57 suspected cases had been tested at the Noguchi Memorial Institute of Medical Research (NMIMR) and Kumasi Centre for Collaborative Research in Tropical Medicine (KCCR) and all 57 had tested negative. As part of the “whole Ghana” approach as put by the President to prevent a possible hit by the virus within our borders, it was announced that an amount of $100 million was to be made available to enhance the country’s coronavirus preparedness plan; suspension of all international travels by public officials, and enhanced protocols for inbound from already infected countries.
Ghana recorded its first 2 positive cases of COVID-19 on 12th March 2020, just a day after the President’s first address to the nation. On 15th March, there was a second address by the President to give an update on the situation in Ghana and more stringent measures taken by the government to contain the situation. 6 cases had been recorded then. All public gatherings were banned reducing the number of people attending a ceremony to a maximum of 25 people in order to prevent overcrowding. All universities, senior high schools and basic schools were also closed and travel advisories issued. All other facilities and business entities were asked to carry on with their businesses but ensure that the proper social distancing is practiced and observe enhanced hygiene procedures.
The positive cases of COVID-19 have gone up from the initial 2 recorded to 24 with one death as at 22nd March, 2020. An exponential increase in 10 days. Expects have projected that there will be more positive cases in the days to come and the country and its citizens will have to do more in order to contain the virus and not further spread it.
The Accra regional and Tema general hospitals as well as the Komfo Anokye teaching and Kumasi South hospitals have been designated as the health Centres for COVID-19 in the Greater Accra and Ashanti regions, respectively. There is no doubt that COVID-19 will be a true test of the strength of the health system in Ghana as lapses in our health care system and especially in our diagnostic centers have become evident. The Director of Centre for Health Systems Strengthening (CfHSS) who is also a virologist at KCCR and a lecturer at the department of Medical Diagnostics at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Dr. Michael Owusu stated in an interview that, COVID-19 cases in the country must be a wakeup call to equip Ghana’s laboratories. He called for a major shift in laboratory policy and equipping of such facilities to meet challenging modern health demands like the coronavirus. He mentioned, in particular, the lack of investment in scientific research in Ghana and Africa at large, showing in the level of preparedness towards the coronavirus across the continent. Dr. Owusu solicited that part of the $100 million to fight the coronavirus outbreak in the country be used to establish a huge research center and equip it as well as resourcing existing research centers like NMIMR and KCCR, the only two facilities currently testing for the novel coronavirus in the country. What is more, other clinical laboratories across the length and breadth of the country should be well equipped with modern devices, and laboratory scientists given adequate training to test complex diseases. Dr. Owusu emphasized, this should be a wakeup call to us as Ghanaians. Below is the link to the interview.