Elizabeth Ohene writes... Wishing it were over

BY: Elizabeth Ohene
The writer
The writer

I have been trying to think of what among the COVID-19 induced things we are now obliged to do, I might want to retain when we ever see the end of this dreadful pandemic.

Probably, the most dramatic and most obvious thing which would define this period is the wearing of masks. So, are there any redeeming features to this mask wearing?

Apart from being able to claim you were at a funeral when you were not and blaming your not having been seen on the mask making it impossible to identify anyone, I can’t think of anything that I might put in the positive column for having to wear a mask.

Maybe there is the fashion consideration. It has been interesting to note how many people have had masks sewn to match the clothes they wear.

It is a dead giveaway that tells me how many new shirts some people have had made in the past year. Any shirt that is more than a year old would not have a matching mask.

I might also put in the positive column, the mask’s ability to cover all sins. You can’t tell if I am smiling or frowning and that can be helpful sometimes. But the mask is uncomfortable to wear.

My ears hurt from the tension exerted by the elastic that holds it up and I haven’t found any way around it.

The day we are told it is safe not to wear masks, I shall stop wearing them and probably throw away whatever spares I would still have in the cupboard.

Social distancing

Now that is a phenomenon which has been difficult for us to embrace here in Ghana. Social distancing doesn’t come naturally to us.

I can’t think of any redeeming features for this one except to say it has probably been the reason why I haven’t had my yearly ‘flu which puts me to bed.

The regular infectious diseases have not showed up this past year and if social-distancing is the reason, then maybe it has some advantages.

A friend says I should add the fact that it has been a long time since the question of strong body odours came up. In other words, nothing wrong with keeping loved ones at arms length.

No hand shaking. Now, who was to tell that Ghanaian society could exist without hand shaking. But we have and I can’t see that we are any the worse for it.

But then we haven’t had real funerals and everybody knows that the absence of full-scale funerals has been the most difficult part of the Covid-19 protocols.

We have found ways to gather in crowds and make nonsense of the social distancing rules, but for as long as we cannot shake hands, it means we cannot have funerals and without funerals, Ghana is not Ghana.

Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue. Maybe it is my imagination but I have not been near many people cough or sneeze this past year.

I wonder if there is less coughing or sneezing generally or I have simply not been near many people. 

Hand washing

I now wash my hands for as long as my brother Sammy does. But then, he is a medical doctor and that is what doctors do.

Washing my hands for the stipulated 20 seconds will turn out to be one of the long-lasting outcomes for me from the pain of this pandemic.

Admittedly, the handwashing was not exactly a new or awkward protocol, the only thing I had to make an effort at was how long and carefully I took to wash my hands.

I think I actually enjoy the process and I have this secret satisfaction that I am behaving like a doctor.

I fear that some people regard the hand washing with the same nuisance factor as they regard the mask wearing and it might not last after the pandemic.

Are more people getting running water in their homes as a result of the Covid measures? I am afraid the Veronica buckets won’t last. I notice there hasn’t been any water in the bucket in front of the hair salon I go to.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. I am afraid, I have to confess I never got this one right. I have tried but it never worked.

I have kept touching my eyes, nose and mouth. I do it and realise I shouldn’t have and I promise myself I would be more careful the next time. Somehow, it has never worked.

The interesting thing is that, I hadn’t realised I was in the habit of constantly touching my eyes, nose and mouth, but once it became an item on the protocol list, it hit me.  Unfortunately, I have to admit failure on this one.


I note that I haven’t mentioned vaccines. The authorities are trying very hard to procure the vaccines but they are currently not easy to find, not even with money.     

It is interesting that with about 1,500 active cases in the country, my mind is turning to what happens when it is all over.

A year ago, I was reading that if the active case count should reach 500, the President might have to resign.

Compared to the nightmare of January, February and March, our situation is much improved. But we are not out of the woods and the Indian situation should be a lesson. I offer this writeup by an Indian doctor that I found interesting:       

“No nation in the world will be able to control COVID-19 by increasing beds, oxygen, ventilators and ICU wards.

This is a temporary, impossible and very expensive solution. If healthcare infrastructure was the answer, then the developed western countries wouldn’t have had that many cases and that many fatalities.

The long lasting, inexpensive and quickest solution is social distancing, wearing masks and maintaining high level of hygiene to stop transmission.

Remember hospitals are not built to stop road accidents, these can only be stopped by careful driving.

It’s the behaviour of the people which decides the course of the pandemic”.

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