Coronavirus: We may be benefiting from not evacuating Ghanaians in Wuhan - Oppong Nkrumah

BY: Enoch Darfah Frimpong
Minister of Information, Mr Kojo Oppong Nkrumah
Minister of Information, Mr Kojo Oppong Nkrumah

The decision not to evacuate Ghanaian citizens from Wuhan in China, the epicentre of the novel Coronavirus disease [COVID-19] may have been beneficial as compared to countries that evacuated their citizens when the disease first broke out, the Minister of Information, Mr Kojo Oppong Nkrumah has said.

He said some countries [in North Africa, Europe and the United States of America (USA)] who evacuated their citizens from the epicentre in Wuhan have all recorded cases of the disease in their respective countries and Ghana was yet to record a case.

When the disease broke out, the Minority caucus in Parliament called on the government to immediately evacuate Ghanaians living in Wuhan and argued that various countries elsewhere were going for their citizens.

Read alsoMinority mounts pressure on govt to evacuate Ghanaian students in Wuhan

The Minority Ranking members on the Health and Foreign Affairs, Kwabena Mintah Akandoh and Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, for instance, argued that it was unfathomable that President Akufo-Addo remained quiet at the initial stages on the matter and did not heed to distress calls by Ghanaian students in Wuhan.

Admitting that they were mindful of the available World Health Organisation (WHO) protocols on evacuations, the Minority MPs insisted those protocols could be followed in the evacuation process.

Health authorities reason for not evacuating

Responding, the acting Director-General of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr Patrick Kuma-Aboagye, emphasised at a press conference that evacuating Ghanaian students in Wuhan was not advisable.

He said stakeholders in Ghana and beyond had described that move as counter-productive and insisted that China even had a better capacity than Ghana in dealing with the disease in terms of prevention, management and treatment.

Read also: COVID 19: It’s not safe to evacuate Ghanaian students

Speaking in a radio interview Thursday morning [March 12, 2020] on Accra based Citi FM, monitored by Graphic Online, Mr Oppong Nkrumah said that decision not to evacuate may have been beneficial.

“From the beginning, some of these countries that are now closing their borders totally said they were going to evacuate people from the epicentre when the advice was that, it is better to contain it within those places."

"So, you notice that for a country like Ghana, we decided not to evacuate [Ghanaians from China]. There was a backlash, but what has happened is that, from that decision not to evacuate, we are of the view that it has contributed to holding this at bay, while some of the countries took a different route, which was to evacuate. now data is beginning to suggest most likely that they may have imported it from some of those places,” he said in the Citi FM interview.

“We will follow the advice of the World Health Organisation (WHO) who we are working with in Accra and the Ghanaian experts who are quite skilled in the management of some of these public health outbreaks. And we are optimistic that it will serve us well,” he said.

The Minister also insisted that government will rather firm up the protocol for inbound traffic from countries affected by the disease in a bid to prevent it from entering Ghana rather than call for a complete ban as it will help in preventing a panic situation.

Coronavirus cases

As both the number of Coronavirus cases and deaths rise around the world, Ghana has as of now not recorded any case.

As of Wednesday, March 11, 2020, official figures from health authorities indicated that 57 suspected cases of the disease had all tested negative.

In a national televised address, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo announced that he had prompted the Minister of Finance to make available the cedi equivalent of US$100 million to boost Ghana's surveillance and preparedness to handle the disease should it surface in the country.

“Our country’s two main research institutions, the Noguchi Memorial Institute and the Kumasi Centre for Collaborative Research, which have the capacity to investigate and confirm or otherwise suspected cases of Coronavirus infections, have been very supportive in this regard. So far, they have found that the fifty-seven (57) suspected cases, as of Wednesday, 11th March, have proved negative,” President Akufo-Addo said.

Ghana's surrounding neighbours, Ivory Coast in the west, Burkina Faso in the north and Togo in the East have all recorded cases of the disease.

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