Prime News Ghana

A virus in the President's speech?

By Mutala Yakubu
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Covid-19 pandemic is still on the rise since its outbreak in China which has gone a long way to hit countries worldwide.

According to John Hopkins University as at 22:25 GMT, 27/04/2020 the world recorded 3,034,801 total confirmed cases, 210,551 deaths from the disease.

Ghana being one of the countries hit, recorded 1,550 total confirmed cases, 11 deaths according to Ghana Health Service as of the same date and time.

His Excellency President Nana Addo Danquah Akuffo Addo as part of his efforts to fight this deadly virus have been giving the country a regular press update on our situation as a country and necessary steps and decisions taken to win the fight.

These speeches are much appreciated by the Ghanaian populace. However, the content gets criticized whenever there are gaps or lack of clarity on some of the policies, interventions and directives propounded.

Criticism in the midst of the crisis should be constructive, that is the only way it can be helpful to this course.

I have found a little virus which can become deadly as well if not managed properly. This virus in few words is the President's' explanation or reasons given for the deaths recorded by the Ghana Health Service. This information is privy to him anyway but does he have to necessarily tell us?

Reasons why I think it's unnecessary
Let's do a quick throwback, On the 27th March 2020, The president in his speech said "Four (4) persons, who had tested positive for the virus, but were aged and had other serious, underlying medical conditions, have lost their lives. May their souls rest in perfect peace."

On the 5th of April, He said; "Two (2) persons are moderately ill, and five (5) persons, as I said before, have lost their lives."

In his recent speech, that is his Eighth, 26th April 2020, He made this statement as he sorts to give hints on why there is a need to strengthen the health system; "Whilst maternal, new-born, adolescent health and nutrition remain our top priorities, we must pay increased attention to chronic, noncommunicable diseases such as heart diseases, diabetes and asthma, which have proved to be the common risk factors for the eleven (11) deaths we have recorded from the virus.

The president in his addresses purports to spread calm by telling us that those with the underlying medical conditions he listed are those at risk and are those who have died from the disease. It is fair but unfortunate because of the following;

1. There is a greater number of people who have at least one of the underlying conditions; heart disease, diabetes, asthma, hypertension, cancer etc. According to WHO; cardiovascular disease (CVD), cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory disease, and reduction in suicide mortality rates.

NCDs collectively caused 41 million deaths worldwide in 2016, equivalent to 71% of all global deaths.

So in his quest to boost the morale of the general populace he is, in turn, killing the spirit of those with such conditions which constitutes quite a number.

2. It is also not proven that all those recovered are people who do not have any of the underlined conditions. If people in this category are not given hope of getting recovery, you may end up speeding the toll the virus can have on them if they contract it which could lead to more deaths.

A documentation by the WHO on the 27/03/2020 recorded Dr Hans Kluge who answered a question put before him: What is the psychological impact of this disease on the elderly?

"Regarding older people and also those with underlying health conditions, having been identified as more vulnerable to COVID-19, and to be told that you are very vulnerable, can be extremely frightening and very fear-inducing.

The psychological impacts for these populations can include anxiety and feeling stressed or angry. Its impacts can be particularly difficult for older people who may be experiencing cognitive decline or dementia. And some older people may already be socially isolated and experiencing loneliness which can worsen mental health."

As at now, most people do know it all has to do with the immune system but the constant reminder by the president in his effort to calm nerves is also increasing fear in others.

3. The Ghana Health Service since the start of the spread of the virus until a week ago puts out the situational update but do not add in detail why deaths were recorded even though they have adequate information. If it were that important, wouldn't they have? Does it really make any difference if details of information were given out?.

Most leaders around the world leave updating of covid19 cases to the appropriate authorities. In another angle, he doesn't explain how people do recover or how they catch the virus, should deaths be any different.

4. Backed by science and data as the president uses for most of his decisions, the age and medical conditions he placed in the context are also not entirely accurate. Over the world, ages do not really matter.

There have been deaths in all ranges of ages. Likewise, there are people who do not have any of the underlined conditions whom have also died. No group of people are susceptible to the disease.

5. As we have not been able to contain the virus since it keeps spreading to new places, it will be quite irresponsible to paint a picture in a way that seems to mean everything is under control. Not to be a prophet of doom but what if case counts increase drastically? Definitely that will mean much more factors will or can cause more deaths. And if it does, will he update us on what amounted to those deaths? Certainly not.

I am strongly of the view that there is no need for the update on the cases recorded, be it total cases confirmed, total recovery and number of deaths. But to be fair, he has been doing it from day one. The intention behind putting out reasons for the deaths might be good but the adverse effect is extremely great and cannot be overlooked. Everyone is joining hands to help fight covid19. The enemy is the virus, not one another.

Our anxiety and fears should be acknowledged and not be ignored, but better understood and addressed by individuals, communities and governments,” Dr Hans Kluge.

This is my little way of supporting the course. As little of a problem it may look could silently act like a virus by working on the mental health of people which could help increase deaths. The mind is powerful and I think the idea to omit that portion won't take anything away from him.

By: Dzorlevo Bright