The Ghana Health Service (GHS) has cautioned that although the country is doing well in the fight against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, it is not out of the woods yet.
It said this was the time for strengthening efforts at sustaining the safety protocols, including handwashing, sanitising the hands, wearing face masks and social distancing.
Addressing traditional leaders in the Upper West Region at a day’s workshop to sensitise them to the safety protocols, the Director of Health Promotion at the GHS, Dr Da Costa Aboagye, said the pandemic had not left the country yet, and that even though the Upper West Region had no active case of the COVID-19 currently, the region ought not be complacent.
Ghana has not been spared the ravaging impact of the global pandemic. As of Friday, October 9, this year, it had recorded over 46,947 cases, with 303 deaths, 46,259 recoveries and 382 active cases.
Dr Aboagye said a survey carried out on the use of infrared thermometers, wearing of face masks, washing of hands and social distancing by the Health Promotion Division of the GHS showed that adherence to the safety and preventive protocols only existed at formal workplaces but not in various communities, lorry terminals and marketplaces.
He said the Ministry of Information and the GHS had been conducting training sessions and holding sensitisation workshops for regional houses of chiefs.
The workshops are aimed at equipping chiefs and queenmothers with accurate information, so that they can as well sensitise their people to the community ownership of the COVID-19 preventive protocols.
Dr Aboagye, who is also the Leader of the National Risk Communication and Social Mobilisation Committee for Ghana's COVID-19 Response Team, touched on the COVID-19 safety protocols, non-communicable diseases (NCDs), stigma, wellness clinics and the role of chiefs and queenmothers in health promotion in his presentation.
“Since travelling within the country is not restricted, one cannot tell when an infected person will enter the Upper West Region. There is also no vaccine to protect us against this virus, as scientists are trying to understand the full picture of the pandemic, its symptoms and severity in order to find a vaccine.
“Under the circumstances, our honourable chiefs and queenmothers must do their best to protect and sustain the gains made by the government by educating their people,” he said.
On stigma, he said the pandemic had provoked social stigma and discriminatory behaviours against infected persons, their families and communities.
As a result, he said, infected persons stood the risk of hiding their illnesses for fear of discrimination and stigmatisation.
He told the chiefs that the future of the country’s healthcare system hinged on health promotion and prevention.
“The Ministry of Health, the GHS and the government have promised to initiate a ‘wellness programme’ by 2021 as one key method for the early detection of NCDs in support of curative healthcare delivery.
“This programme will provide a platform for every Ghanaian to, at least, check his or her health status once a year. The data collected will be linked to the National Health Insurance Scheme to assist with the profiling of the health status of the population,” he said.
The President of the Upper West Regional House of Chiefs and Chief of Tumu, Kuoro Richard Babini Kanton VI, on behalf of the members of the house, thanked President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo for the measures put in place to slow down the spread of the COVID-19, which he said had yielded positive results for the country.
The Upper West Regional Minister, Dr Hafiz Bin Salih, said the COVID-19 pandemic had taken a great toll on Ghana and the world at large.
“Nonetheless, the government of Ghana, through innovation and the exemplary leadership of President Akufo-Addo, did intervene with quick-witted intelligence to protect the country by putting in place effective measures and safety protocols,” he said.
A Deputy Minister of Information, Mr Pius Enam Hadzide, urged the chiefs to lead in the roll out of the community engagement and risk education strategy to deepen awareness of the COVID-19.