COVID-19: The person standing next to you could be Carlos Ahenkorah

BY: Dr Elliot Koranteng Tannor
Carlos K. Ahenkorah
Carlos K. Ahenkorah

It’s big news that a sitting Member of Parliament representing Tema West constituency and the Deputy Minister for Trade and Industry in Ghana, Mr. Carlos Ahenkorah, who tested positive for COVID-19 was found at some registrations centres (when he was supposed to be in isolation) and has received massive backlash from all Ghanaians including the President of Ghana.

He has done the honorable thing by resigning from his post and Ghanaians are calling for prosecution and even stripping him of his MP position and some are even asking for the withdrawal of his candidature for the upcoming elections.

I am so intrigued by the backlash and he so deserves all he is getting for being so irresponsible as a leader. But the focus of this piece is not on the one being crucified now by Ghanaians but the ones pointing the accusing fingers.

He is an MP and hence in the limelight so he should not have done what he did. But are we not doing worse? I ask where are all the 4941 active cases so far? I hope they are all in isolation? Food for thought! Positive cases are not all admitted, are they? They are advised to go home and isolate and report symptoms when they get any. Where do they get food when they are hungry? Just asking!

The COVID-19 cases in Ghana are on the rise, and for most people who said they did not believe in the disease, you are now beginning to realize it really exists and I only hope the death of the Chief Executive Officer of the Forestry Commission Lawyer Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie popularly known as Sir John a few days ago, should drum home the point. May his gentle soul rest in peace. We have lost 117 Ghanaians so far to this pandemic and you are still saying do not believe it exists in Ghana.

You are quick to ask for the head of the Tema West MP because he was found in public but I thought you were the one who did not believe in the existence of COVID-19 in Ghana? I thought you said it’s a ‘white man’ or ‘rich man’s’ disease and cannot affect you so why are you bothered that he came to see how you were doing during the NPP primaries? Is that not what is expected of him as an MP to ensure the process in his constituency is running smoothly and you would have blamed him for not showing up and hence not vote for him? Right? Poor him that he fell for the politics.

What is my point? We as health workers have been drumming home the point of observing all the safety protocols but you do not listen. Those who try to follow the protocols are short of its effectiveness. You are here asking for someone to be crucified but you are not even wearing a face mask and if you are, it's sitting under your chin or hanging on one of your ears or in your pocket awaiting to see the police before you wear it. Shame on you! Why? Because you don’t believe in the disease that has claimed the lives of some 117 well-meaning Ghanaians so far. I am afraid to say some are still battling for their lives in the various intensive care units and in isolation centres. Lord have mercy on us!

So far we have had three prominent doctors in this country losing their lives to COVID-19 and you still say you don’t believe in the disease but I do hope the death of Sir John sends some shivers down your spine as he is the one you might know. Others have lost family members and therefore can relate better to what I am addressing. May the souls of all the departed rest in peace. Let’s help to prevent more deaths.
We have over a hundred doctors so far infected with COVID-19 and some nurses, pharmacies and allied staff as well. Can you imagine the toll that COVID-19 has on the existing structures and health workforce in Ghana? You better protect yourselves or else when you come in with the disease or any other disease, there will not be a doctor or nurse to attend to you. You might be attended to by the hospital security or cleaner. We need to take this condition a bit more seriously as a country. Lets stop playing super-hero and mask up!

The government has placed our safety in our hands, the success or otherwise of the decision now depends on you and I. Our safety is now our responsibility and not anyone else. I have therefore decided to write this piece to drum home the point of not taking the disease for granted and heeding to all the safety protocols using the sad event of Carlos Ahenkorah as a focal point.

He may have tested and found to be positive, he did not look sick and because he said he knew his status he at least tried to keep to himself and ensure he was always wearing his face mask (or so he says!).

Can you for once imagine everyone around you is ‘Carlos Ahenkorah’, would you be close to him without a face mask? Would you lower your face mask so he can hear you better when you speak? Would you stand in front of him and say you cannot breathe so you want to let down your facemask or hang it on your ear? Would you stand very close to him and not maintain social distance? Would you keep silent when you realize he is trying to lower his facemask or is walking around without a face mask? Would you shake his hands, hug or even give him an elbow? I think your answers to most of these questions will be outright NO! I guess you may not accept the money he gives you.

Why then are we not paying heed to these safety protocols because we are either assuming the ones around us are not infected? Why are we assuming so? Is it because they do not look sick? I don’t think Mr Ahenkorah looked sick, did he? Don’t take things for granted at all.

The disease is real and spreading very fast. Please ensure you wash your hands frequently after touching anything, sanitize if you cannot wash your hands, wear your face mask always and stop giving excuses for why you should not wear your facemask and wear it well. Always keep your distance from everyone around you. They may be infected or you may infect them. Let’s keep this virus from spreading. It’s our only chance of survival.

Take note that you may be the next Carlos Ahenkorah with the virus. If you do not assume everyone around you is a Carlos Ahenkorah and just may be, unlike him, you may not lose only your position but your life. Mask up now and save your life and others around you.

Thank you.

Dr Elliot Koranteng Tannor
Senior Specialist Physician/Nephrologist
Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital
Senior Atlantic Fellow for Health Equity