I write to contribute my quota to nation building on the COVID-19 discourse in these emergency times. Before I start, permit me to explain some basic terminologies that have been used interchangeably.
Quarantine means you have come into contact with a COVID-19 positive patient but you are not showing any of the symptoms yet. At this stage, you are quarantined.
But if you start showing symptoms of the disease, you are isolated whiles your samples get tested. If the test turns up positive, then you are managed at the Isolation centre.
In every pandemic situation such as COVID-19, there are 2 main entry routes into a nation. These are the vertical transmission route (Imported cases) and horizontal transmission route (Community transmission stage). For vertical transmission, the index patient and all its possible contacts can be traced by Public Health officials and quarantine for 14 days. If within the period, these contacts start showing symptoms of the disease, they can be managed at an isolation centre after their infections status have been confirmed.
However, if the transmission moves from vertical to horizontal, ie, community transmission, then we must brace ourselves for the worse. Worse not because everybody who get infected will die, NO, but worse because the transmission pattern gets exponential. When we start getting 100s of transmission on daily basis, our current non robust Health System (i.e., Testing of cases and management of same) will crumble down and this is where we have case fatalities especially people with underlined medical conditions like blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and even HIV. At this stage, nosocomial infection (Hospital acquired infections) are also likely and this is where people begin to loose their lives.
As of today, 21st of March 2020, Ghana is in its horizontal transmission stage and that is why I am worried. The next few weeks will be very critical in Ghana as far as COVID-19 is concerned and we must brace ourselves as a nation for this. I was glad to hear the Government of Ghana’s directive to close down all churches, Mosques, Universities, Senior High Schools, Junior High Schools and Primary Schools. In addition, the avoidance of crowded areas using social distancing, use of alcohol based hand sanitizers and regular washing of hands with soap under running water will all be very helpful at this stage. But with community transmission setting in, I think we should expect more lock downs in the coming days. I will advice Ghanaians at this stage to start stocking essential items like food, basic pain killers among many others if we can.
At this point, the best place to stay is home if you don’t have very urgent matter to attend to (especially Hospitals, Water Companies, Power, etc). Well, it is good to use gloves and alcohol based hand sanitizers but I am afraid, those items alone cannot safe guard your safety if you neglect regular washing of hands and staying at home (if you don’t belong to the essential groups).
I will also advice if you start exhibiting signs of COVID-19 which include coughing, sneezing, mild head aches and difficulty in breathing, don’t try to go to the hospital immediately but stay at home and call any of the emergency numbers provided by the Ministry of Health. Officers will interact with you on the fon and will advise you accordingly. This is because on your way to the hospital, you could further spread the virus (especially in taxis, trotros and buses) if you end up turning positive for the disease. Even at the OPD if the hospitals are not expecting you, you could further spread the virus if you turn up positive.
I must admit people who get infected can recover if managed properly so there is no need to fear and panic but we must adhere to safety guidelines being offered by the Ministry of Health so we do not escalate the numbers. The fatality of this infections lies in escalating the number of new infections on daily basis.
The only way we can fight this disease is breaking the chain of infection and each and everyone has a role to play. May God bless our homeland Ghana and make our nation great and strong.
Please, if you have read this message, don’t keep to yourself but spread the message to help break the chain of infection and safe a life. May God richly bless you.
Dr. S.F. Gyasi, a Senior Lecturer in Microbiology University of Energy and Natural Resources, Sunyani.