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MINORITY PRESS STATEMENT ON THE COVID-19 TESTING, GENOMIC SEQUENCING, ALLOCATION OF RESOURCES TO RESEARCH INSTITUTIONS AND THE PROCUREMENT OF ACCINES

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Read Time: 5 minutes

5
th July, 2021.
MINORITY PRESS STATEMENT ON THE COVID-19 TESTING, GENOMIC SEQUENCING,
ALLOCATION OF RESOURCES TO RESEARCH INSTITUTIONS AND THE PROCUREMENT OF
VACCINES.
Honourable Colleagues,
Members of the Press,
Ladies and Gentlemen.
We will like to thank you all for honouring our invitation at short notice to this press
conference. We really appreciate your support and commitment towards disseminating our
views to the members of the public.
The Minority in Parliament finds it extremely concerning the manner in which government
has chosen to focus on the management of information relating to the COVID epidemic in
Ghana rather than management and control of COVID-19 to guarantee the health and safety
of Ghanaians.
At the very onset of our COVID-19 experience, we were all made to believe that the most
important element of epidemic management was testing, testing and testing. In order to be
effective at this government informed the general public that it will employ three testing
mechanisms including routine surveillance which involves mass testing at specific locations,
enhanced contact tracing where persons close to or living within a specified distance to
infected persons will be tested and finally testing of travellers arriving within the country.
All testing services were to be offered free of charge to Ghanaians either through routine
surveillance, contact tracing or on request at various hospitals and referral centres to help
save lives and control the spread of COVID-19 within our communities.
This announcement brought some relief and comfort to many Ghanaians seeking some clarity
on government’s interventions in the face of a ragging pandemic.
However, by June last year, not only had routine surveillance been curtailed, enhanced
contact tracing which government promised had also ceased, testing was now based on
making out-of-pocket payments at health facilities. As we speak if infected persons don’t call
persons they have been in contact with, tell them their status and encourage them to also
test; none of their contacts will be traced and tested to identify and treat infected persons
within the community.
On the issue of testing arriving travellers at our borders, this is currently limited to persons
arriving at Kotoka international airport leaving untested travellers arriving via ships through
our sea ports or through our land borders.Ladies and Gentlemen,
Under this atmosphere of very little or no testing in some situations, we find it rather
interesting that government via the Ghana health service issued a press statements on the
22nd of June 2021 and stated emphatically that there is no community spread of the delta
variant within our communities. This is indeed a puzzle because without conducting routine
surveillance or mass testing and contact tracing of infected persons how can government be
so sure?
We were therefore not surprised that after a few weeks of issuing that statement, just
yesterday Government had to change its position and now admit that the delta variant of
COVID-19 is now spreading within our communities.
Per the information gathered, the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 has been within several
Ghanaian communities across multiple regions for quite a couple of months and instead of
government sounding the alarm bells and encouraging Ghanaians to enhance their adherence
to safety protocols such as hand hygiene, the wearing of face masks and the social distancing,
government has at all times denied the existence of this virulent delta variant of the virus and
even now is trying to limit it to some parts of the Greater Accra Region.
This in itself is an indictment on the effectiveness of measures that government has instituted
at our ports to protect us all and raises questions on the accuracy of the information that
government provides on the COVID-19 situation in Ghana.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
There is also currently no clear policy on genomic sequencing of samples obtained from
infected persons. This is required to determine the frequency of sampling, the methodology
and also which samples are to undergo genomic sequencing. The current regime, without a
clear-cut sampling method to determine how often samples are subjected to genomic
sequencing, is the reason why the community spread of the delta variant took this country by
surprise and government needs to come up with a genomic sequencing policy on COVID-19
without delay.
We are also concerned about the allocation of resources to our research institutions namely
the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR), the West African Centre for
Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens (WACCBIP) and the University of Health and Allied
Sciences (UHAS).
It is sad that since the beginning of the year some of these institutions have been operating
not having received their allocation of funds from government in order to facilitate their
operations and others we are told after almost six months into the year just received a small
allocation towards their operations.
Laboratories are also battling seriously for reagents and other resource allocations in order
to facilitate testing. It is therefore not surprising that some of these laboratories including
government facilities are charging for COVID-19 tests.Ladies and Gentlemen,
Inasmuch as COVID-19 presents several challenges to our socioeconomic system, its main
impact is on health and government must be seen to be allocating appropriate amounts of
resources to the health sector. The situation in which GHc 19 billion Cedis is spent on COVID
management and yet only a paltry US$100m can be accounted for within the Ministry of
Health must not be allowed to continue this year.
Finally, government is still well behind its own vaccine deployment plan because of lack of
commitment towards using appropriate channels to procure vaccines for the general
population. Almost half of the year is gone and if the target is to vaccinate 20 million
Ghanaians by close of the year then the current vaccination status of around 1 million citizens
is well behind schedule.
Should government even have all the 38 million vaccines required to vaccinate the 19 million
Ghanaians left to be vaccinated, that plan to vaccinate the remaining 19 million Ghanaians
will require an average in excess of 212,000 vaccinations per day till the end of the year. That
logistical operation will require a lot of resources to achieve.
Government should therefore come clean on the way forward in terms of vaccinations. Are
we still rolling out the vaccination plans government proposed at the beginning of the year or
we should expect some variations? And if there are variations government should quickly
endeavour to inform Ghanaians.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
To conclude, we will like to call on government to as a matter of urgency do the following:

  1. Revert to its initial plan on testing by conducting routine surveillance tests, enhanced
    contact tracing tests and also effective testing of all incoming travellers not just at
    Kotoka but also across our sea ports and land borders.
  2. Immediately put in measures and produce within a week an effective genomic
    sequencing policy for COVID-19 that is credible and effective enough to facilitate the
    early detection of all COVID-19 variants and the extent of their spreads within
    Ghanaian communities.
  3. Release approved funds for the various health institutions and agencies so they can
    better perform their duties.
  4. Fast-track the procurement of vaccines through appropriate channels to secure
    vaccines for the remaining 19 million Ghanaians it promised to vaccinate this year.
  5. Be candid with Ghanaians on the real COVID-19 situation in Ghana.
    We believe that if government follows our advice, the murky situation in which Ghana finds
    itself with regards to the management of COVID-19 will improve and the general health safety
    of Ghanaians and the recovery of our economy will improve. May God bless our homeland Ghana and may He give our government the commitment and
    resources to see us through the scourge of this pandemic.
    Thank you.
    Kwabena Mintah Akandoh (MP)
    (Ranking Member on the Select Committee on Health and MP for Juaboso

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