Perceptions of people regarding COVID-19 either positive or negative influences their health behaviour in terms of seeking public health services. This helps the government in planning appropriate public health strategies.
The COVID-19 is a newly discovered infectious disease, first seen in December 2019 at Wuhan city of Hubei province, Central China.
A rapid spread with a high transmission rate and substantial deaths have been observed worldwide affecting 216 countries, areas or territories already.
The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the COVID-19 outbreak as a global pandemic on 11 March 2020 and countries around the world are implementing different measures, from local quarantines to travel restrictions, to prevent wide spread of the virus.
In Ghana, the first cases of COVID-19 were reported on 12 March 2020. The two cases were identified as people who had returned to the country from Norway and Turkey. These imported cases initiated the first contact tracing process in Ghana, helping detect several dozens of cases in a short period of time.
WHO recommended safety protocols being adopted globally are wearing of facemasks, washing of hands with soap under running water and observing social distancing.
Countries around the world including Ghana are implementing different measures, from local quarantines to travel restrictions, all to prevent wide spread.
Mode of Transmission
COVID-19 is transmitted from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth, which are expelled when a person with COVID-19 coughs, sneezes, or speaks and also via contact with fomites.
The virus has been shown to survive outside a host for durations that depend on the nature of the surface. It can also survive in the air for up to 3 hours, on copper surfaces for up to 4 hours, on cardboard for up to 24 hours, and plastic and stainless steel, for up to 72 hours.
Following the discovery that the pandemic had already started to spread in Ghana, the government instituted measures to stop local spread of the infection and any further import of the virus into the country.
Measures included shutting all land borders to the country together with the closure of the main international airport in Accra
As human as we are, many countries including Ghana have had their fair share of non-compliance of these safety protocols with all sorts of excuses. Whiles some say the mask generated a lot of heat, others say they cannot breathe properly in them.
A Ghana Health Service survey report released in November, 2020, indicated that only 42 per cent of Ghanaians were properly wearing face masks, one of the health protocols to stem the fast-rising COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the survey, the number of persons who did not wear nose masks rose from 18 percent to 72 percent from the month of August to October; 2020, while the number wearing the masks correctly reduced from 44 percent to 10 percent.
The Director of the Ghana Health Service, Dr. Patrick Kuma Aboagye, briefing the media on the findings of the survey, said those wearing masks correctly moved from 44% in survey 3 to almost 10%. In some areas, it was as low as five percent but the average was 10%. There were some significant areas where we had about 5% wearing of masks.
“Those not wearing masks at all increased from 18 percent to 72 percent which is a major worry.
And these are all in Accra. I believe that if we are able to get people to wear masks, more people will be wearing it correctly and that will lead to better results,” he said.
To address this, the Ministry of Health issued a directive making the wearing of facemasks mandatory at public places throughout the country.
I travelled from Koforidua to Aburi, all in the Eastern Region, on a public transport and something caught my attention, I observed that the usual checks by the station officers at the transport terminals to ensure that people wear their face masks before boarding a vehicle was missing, nobody seems to care about the mask anymore.
Three young ladies who were on board the vehicle later bought some of the facemasks from a hawker just when the vehicle was about moving and kept them in their pockets, In fact, apart from myself and another gentleman, no other passenger was wearing the facemask in a fully air-conditioned vehicle.
The vehicle was lively with conversations and phone calls among and yet, none of the them had a facemask on, three gentlemen who didn’t have their masks on, removed the facemasks from their pockets as the vehicle approached a Police checkpoint in a bid to show to the police if they were questioned, to my surprise, the Police Officer came round the car checked all the seats and gave the driver the go ahead to drive on.
Then, the three ladies retorted “Ahh, we have wasted our monies, if we knew the Police would not enforce the wearing of the mask, we wouldn’t have bought them”!, I quickly jumped in and told them; “are you waiting for someone to ask you to protect yourself before you do so?” since majority of the passengers were not wearing the face masks either, they pretended not to have heard anything at all.
There is flagrant disregard of the COVID-19 preventive protocols particularly the hand washing with soap under running water, wearing of face masks and social distancing, the old ways of doing things has bounced back, the enforcement of no mask no entry in public vehicles have all been stopped endangering the lives of people.
I witnessed about six funerals all along the way before I got to my destination. At each of the funeral hundreds of people had gathered and moving about without face masks or any observation of any other protocols including the social distancing and the hand washing stations to ensure that people washed their hands.
Everything seem normal in recent times, disregarding COVID-19, with people going about their routines and attending social gatherings, but we are not in normal times. Health facilities across the country continue to record positive cases of the COVID-19, people continue to fall sick and many others are unfortunately losing the battle against the pandemic.
A survey conducted by the GNA in the New Juaben South and North Municipalities between March and April this year under the Mobilising media to fighting COVID-19 Project by Journalists for Human Rights in collaboration with the Ghana Journalists Association showed that people still hold the perception that the disease is a hoax.
Apart from the perception that covid-19 was hoax, some people have made it clear that already the restrictions on COVID-19 had affected their businesses and finances and could not afford to observe the protocols including buying facemasks and alcohol based hand sanitizers.
The bus terminals and market places, which are the centres of congestion in the municipalities have all relaxed in observing the safety protocols, the setting up of hand washing stations at the entrances have all been stopped, wearing of masks and social distancing are no more enforced whiles some shops and supermarket which hitherto ensured strict compliance of the protocols have also relaxed.
Facemasks according to health experts certainly do not eliminate transmission of the coronavirus, but it’s a simple mechanism, which protects one from unintended transmission from an infected or asymptomatic carrier, therefore, facemasks have a level of protection which must be considered alongside other measures such as physical distancing and hygiene measures.
President Nana Akufo-Addo in all address to the nation on the further measures to contain the spread of covid-19, continue to stress on the need we observe the protocols as strictly as always.
He indicated the only way to get out of the pandemic is to religiously observe the safety protocols -social distancing, wearing the face masks and washing hands under running water with soap as well as frequent sanitizing with an alcohol-based sanitizers.
As at May 11, 2021, Ghana has recorded a total of 93,243 covid-19 cases, since March 2020 when Ghana recorded its maiden cases, 91, 146 recoveries, 783 deaths and 1,314 active cases, according to GHS website.
The government has not relaxed the protocols. Every directive as far as measures to contain the spread of covid-19 remains strictly in force. We just have to reinforce the wearing of face masks and all the other preventive protocols should be revived and sustained unabated until we have finally by the grace of God eliminated the virus from our midst.
A lot has been done that we cannot afford to allow this seeming blatant disregard for the protocols to continue and endanger the lives of many innocent people, the enforcement authorities and all stakeholders must wake up to the reality and enforce the directives for the good of our dear nation.