Non-adherence to COVID-19 safety protocols major challenge - GHS

BY: Doreen Andoh
Dr Patrick Kuma-Aboagye — Director-General of the GHS
Dr Patrick Kuma-Aboagye — Director-General of the GHS

The Ghana Health Service (GHS) says to beat COVID-19, enforcement of the safety protocols has to be a shared responsibility and not the preserve of the security agencies.

That had become critical because the gross disregard for the safety protocols and improper use of face masks were the major challenges in the fight against COVID-19, it said.

Addressing the Minister’s Press Briefing in Accra yesterday, the Director-General of the GHS, Dr Patrick Kuma-Aboagye, called on individuals, institutions and households to get involved to help avert the escalation of the already serious third wave the country was saddled with.

“If households, service providers and institutions strictly ensure that people they admit into their spaces adhere to the safety protocols, particularly the washing of hands, proper wearing of face masks and the social distancing rule, the numbers will come down.

“The current trajectory of cases, with low adherence to COVID-19 safety protocols, poses a significant risk of a higher third wave,” he said.

Role of vaccines

Dr Kuma-Aboagye asked the public not to abandon the safety protocols even after they had been vaccinated.

He said the proper wearing of face masks, the application of hand and respiratory hygiene and other protocols were still the game-changer in responding to the global pandemic because the protocols were the only known sure way of preventing the spread of the virus.

He reiterated the fact that although vaccines were helpful in mitigating the impact of COVID-19, none was a 100 per cent protective measure against being infected.

Dr Kuma-Aboagye explained that people who had been fully vaccinated must complement that with the proper wearing of face masks, adherence to hand and respiratory hygiene, as well as social distancing, to help protect vulnerable populations.

“Vaccination will not prevent you from infection, but chances that you might not fall sick are very high and you are highly likely not to die from COVID-19.

“But a fully vaccinated person who is a carrier can transmit to more vulnerable people, which include those who have not been vaccinated, and they might be severely hit by the virus, even if they do not die,” he explained.

Update

Providing an update, Dr Kuma-Aboagye said the Delta variant, which had a higher transmission rate and a severer disease burden, was becoming dominant and called for stricter enforcement of the safety protocols to prevent escalation of the virus.

He said the situation had resulted in increased workplace and school infections, with active cases increasing from 1,600 to over 6,000 within a month.

He said the Volta, Bono and Bono East regions emerged as additional hotspots.

The director-general said as of July 1, 2021, the Volta Region had 16 active cases, which had risen to 532 currently, while the Bono Region, which had eight active cases, currently had 200, with the Bono East Region, which had three cases, now having 178 active cases.

Dr Kuma-Aboagye said those regions were under strict surveillance by the GHS to contain the situation.

Total confirmed cases as of August 1, this year were 106,434, out of total tests of 1.5 million, showing a positivity ratio of 7.3 per cent.

Those who have recovered are 98,814, with 854 people succumbing to the disease, leaving an active population of 6,766 people carrying the virus.

With regard to testing at the Kotoka International Airport (KIA), he said as of yesterday morning, 2,407 people, out of the 406,872 people tested, were positive.

The GHS director-general said the number comprised 41 per cent Ghanaians and 59 per cent non-Ghanaians.

“The month of July recorded the highest number of COVID-19 cases among international arrivals since the airport opened on September 1, 2020,” he said.

Testing system at KIA

Following concerns expressed by some arriving passengers at the KIA about disparities in results of their personal Rapid Diagnostic Cartridge (RDT) kits and the testing system at the KIA, the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) clarified that the COVID-19 testing system being used at the KIA was different from the RDT kits.

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the FDA, Mrs Delese Darko, said the KIA system was an antigen testing system known as automated florescent Immuno acid system, which met the FDA’s positivity and specificity rates of not less than 99 per cent, while the RDT was a lateral flow system.

She explained that the lateral flow system used in RDT cartridges to test for the presence of the virus made it less sensitive, especially in cases of low viral loads.

“Sometimes people get the two confused. The difference is that with the RDT, the sample is dropped on it and the result is indicated by lines which could be read with the naked eye, similar to the rapid pregnancy test kit system, but the automated florescent Immuno acid system detects the virus by a certain florescence and magnification system.

“Another technology identified with the KIA system is the Nano technology that made it even more sensitive.

“Another thing we noticed is that even with low viral loads, the KIA system detected the presence of the virus, one of the basis for which the FDA gave it full and not emergency authorisation. Under emergency authorisation, a year’s permit is given, while the device is placed under continuous monitoring,” she said.

Mrs Darko said in line with the conditions of approval of the FDA, the KIA system was under constant monitoring to ensure that standard at the time of approval had not fallen in the interest of public health.

Home testing

Mrs Darko cautioned that home testing of COVID-19 was not permitted in the country because no self-testing kits, RDT, had met the FDA’s sensitivity and specificity rate of not less than 99 per cent to receive authorisation.

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