Doubting Thomases, indiscipline cause of spike in covid-19 cases in Ho

Posted on  June 30, 2020 

Categories:   Community response

It has been almost six months since the world announced the presence of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2); the virus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic which was first detected in Wuhan, China. On 13th March 2020, Ghana announced its first two cases, both individuals arriving in Ghana from Turkey and Norway. By April 11, the Volta region had recorded its first set of nine cases with the majority of cases centred in Aflao in the Ketu South Municipality and in Hohoe and Ho the regional Capital with two and a case respectively.

Since then, the world has recorded over 7.6 million confirmed cases with Ghana contributing over 11,964 to the statistics. While the Volta region’s 263 cases out of Ghana’s total case count, may not be alarming, residents are concerned about the nature of spread in the region.  The hotspot for the virus has moved from Aflao in the Ketu South to the Ho municipality and the regional capital, within weeks.

Sylvia Awuye, a reporter with Holy FM in Aflao noted that it was not surprising when Aflao was identified as a hotspot and the first area to record the coronavirus pandemic since “it is a multi-purpose centre of business, with foreigners trooping in through the many  approved and unapproved routes”.  But as at June 08, Ho had beat Ketu South which had 40 confirmed cases and 22 recoveries to take the top spot with 62 confirmed cases, seven recoveries and a one death.

Many ask, what is contributing to the rising cases in the regional capital?

Mr Ricmond   Abake, Ho Municipal Information Officer and member of the Public Health Emergency and Management Committee in an interview said one dangerous factor hindering the fight against COVID-19 in the municipality is doubt coupled with indiscipline among residents.

“The Assembly is doing a lot to sensitise the people but they have refused to listen! They doubt the existence of the disease and think we are making it all up”, he said.

Mr. Abake said to prove the existence of the disease and number of people infected, they mobilized all morning show hosts to the treatment centres to see for themselves how patients were faring and help tell the story to their listeners. But, he said, “even that has not achieved much”.

He recalled an unfortunate incident before the formation of the municipal COVID-19 taskforce when some people ganged up and mercilessly beat up the market queen for insisting they wear nose masks. In the scuffle, they made away with her phone and destroyed the megaphones the Assembly gave her for the outreach.

When Covid-19 was first announced, the fear with which many people reacted if sustained may have brought the numbers down, some people have said.

After the President of the Republic partially lifted restrictions on social gatherings, many had expected churches/mosques and other places of worship to operate in full capacity at least with the recommended number, but they were to be disappointed. A day before churches were to start operations after the lockdown, some orthodox churches in the municipality issued statements calling for their members to stay put until the coast clears. The Catholic Diocese of Ho on June 06 wrote “Parishes and Out stations in the Ho diocese will remain closed to the celebration of public masses until further notice”. Many churches followed suit with only two charismatic churches operating, using the social distancing protocols of maintaining more than one metre between worshippers. Muslim worshippers  for the most part say they have not been issued similar letters to stay away from their mosques and have only done so out of fear.

Mallan Umar, a tailor at Anglokodzi, a suburb of the municipality is bemoaning how his area mosque is operating in spite of all the safety precautions. “I have stopped attending the mosque in the meantime. They still stand closely together during prayers after all the warnings, so I pray at home. This is an area mosque known for its congregation made up of mostly hawkers”. In the early days of the outbreak in the municipality, same mosques were closed by the deputy Volta regional minister, Reverend Johnson Avuletey for flaunting precautionary measures.

Asked how they were handling the issue, Sarki Yushau Turawa, Chief of Ho Zongo said the activities of some smaller mosques have come as a surprise to him. He said prior to the lifting of the ban, they met with all Imams of major mosques in the municipality and decided not to open the two main Friday congregational mosques, until all safety protocol measures have been put in place. He said his checks on the activities of the few mosques that were allowed to open showed that proper safety protocols were not being observed. For that reason, a meeting will be convened soon to review its activities, and where applicable close down those who won’t comply.

A cursory look at some workplaces, markets and homes show that people have become lax on the safety protocols suggested by the World Health Organization and the Ghana Health Service.

Madam Teresa  a resident of Mirage Area, said when the pandemic started making the news, in a fright to protect herself and her family, she fumigated the whole house, stopped family members and guests from visiting them and placed a handwashing basin, antiseptic soaps and tissue outside the main gate. She insisted that members of the house who go outside, drop their clothes, footwear and any bag in the garage for sanitizing before letting them back indoors. “I can’t risk my family’s life”, she said. Madam Teresa’s tactic was the new norm in many homes at the time, but after a while households started to loosen their grip on the safety precautions because according to them “no one we know has been infected”.

Mr. Abake warns that “Until the people change their attitude towards this pandemic and work towards complying with the safety protocols, Ho will continue to lead”. The question which begs to be answered is should the fear factor be activated to whip up activism in residents or people should be allowed to still play the ostrich?

Writer: Sumaiya Saeed