COVID-19 team buying cars instead of PPEs for frontline health workers

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The Akufo-Addo government is busily purchasing cars and customizing them in the name of the deadly Coronavirus instead using the money to provide the much-needed medically certified Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) which Ghanaian health workers continue to cry as their only amour in the fight against the pandemic.

Aside the benevolence of churches, politicians, private companies and businessmen, Ghanaian health workers have been at the mercy of Jack Mac of the Alibaba Foundation as well as the Chinese government for the current the PPEs they are using in the global fight.

The COVID-19 pandemic is ravaging every country on earth, got shut them down, killing thousands of citizens and decimating economies. In Ghana, the annual Cocoa syndicated Loan is in limbo because the European banks are not working because of COVID-19.

Strangely, however, Ghanaians continue to see several pick-up vehicles with specialized number plates in town suggesting Akufo-Addo government was more concerned about cars than the PPEs which the Ghana Medical Association (GMA) and Ghana Registered Nurses Association have separately said must be a priority in the protection their members.

The Herald has seen new Isuzu pick-up with COVID registered number plates in many parts of Accra while ordinary citizens also continue flooding many social media platforms with pictures of some of these cars.

Some of the new cars seen had COVID 33-20, COVID 61-20, COVID 6-20 as the specialized number plate.

Coincidentally, the Ghana Police Service, Ghana Armed Forces and security agencies involved in the enforcement of the nationwide lockdown have at various times taken delivery of a huge number of cars from the same government leaving in surprised at the decision to buy the Isuzu pick-ups instead of the PPEs.

The cars are being bought at a time when are there disturbing news from the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital work workers there, have also tested positive with the deadly COVID-19, and are on admission on the sixth floor of the Surgical Block of the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, for treatment.

Aside the three health workers, a pregnant woman currently in the Maternity Ward of the same hospital, has also tested positive, The Herald, learnt.

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This comes after nurses in the Accident and Emergency Centre of the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, announced in letters submitted to their superiors their decision to stay home as a result of one of their colleagues at the Centre contracting the disease with high fatality.

Ahead of the nurses’ announcement, doctors in the same Accident and Emergency Centre had complained about lack of proper isolation centres and other logistics in managing COVID-19 patients.

The doctors had in a leaked memo, demanded that Coronavirus test be done on all the staff of the department because a patient with the condition was recklessly left on the sideways of the department unknown to many, and the nurses insist, despite assurances by authorities in terms of insurance packages, their concerns have not been addressed as PPEs, for instance, are not available.

But aside the Korle-Bu nurse, two medical doctors at the Ledzokuku Municipal Hospital (LEKMA Hospital) at Teshie in Accra and a specialist Anesthetist at the Greater Accra Regional Hospital (Ridge Hospital), have also contracted the disease. Like the nurse, they are being treated in their private homes.

On Sunday, April 5, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo announced all health workers in the country are to enjoy tax holiday for three months as part of government incentive for their sacrifices in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Additionally, frontline health workers will receive a 50% allowance on their March to June basic salary.

They are also to enjoy free rides to and from work on Ayalolo buses. Commenting on the measures, GMA President Frank Ankobea told Francis Abban on the Morning Starr that although their morale has been boosted by the open commendation by the President, the PPEs are in urgent need.

“I will like to commend the president and government for the measures they have taken and [the] package for us. When you doing something and your president acknowledges you it gives you morale to do more. We are grateful for that incentive but all we ask is that they should give us the PPEs…there is a challenge with PPEs distribution and I’m sure the ministry knows it. All we are saying is that ‘let us get the PPEs’,” he said.

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The President also announced that water bills for all Ghanaians for the next three months – April, May, June – will be absorbed by the government, as the fight against coronavirus intensifies.

The Ghana Water Company Ltd and the Electricity Company of Ghana have been directed to ensure the stable supply of water and electricity during this period. In addition, there will be no disconnection of supply.

“Furthermore, the government will absorb the water bills for all Ghanaians for the next three months, ie, April, May, and June. All water tankers, publicly and privately owned, are also going to be mobilized to ensure the supply of water to all vulnerable communities.”

But after the President speech, Ghana received some over 30,000 PPEs, from China as part of that country’s efforts to help some 17 West African countries including Ghana help deal with the situation of Coronavirus in their countries.

The medical supplies, totalling 38,800 include 3,000 N95 protective face masks for frontline health workers, 10,000 protective face masks for all, 2,500 disposable overalls, 800 Infrared Thermometers, 2,500 medical goggles, 10,000 single-use gloves and 10,000 disposable shoe covers.

Interestingly, this donation which is mostly single-use is said to be far less than what the country requires in addressing the pandemic which has no end in sight.

But while many countries, including America, are rushing to China searching for ventilators for victims and PPEs for their health workers from medical doctors, nurses, laboratory technicians, mortuary staff among others, Ghana is at the behest of charity.

At the arriving ceremony in Accra, Health Minister, Kwaku Agyemang-Manu, expressed gratitude to the People’s Republic of China, emphasizing how much of help and relief it will serve the country in the interim, whilst government puts in measures to produce its very own locally manufactured PPEs.

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“We are very grateful to the People’s Republic of China. As we sit here, I can only say that the systems for health in West Africa are very very fragile. We haven’t positioned ourselves strong enough to do what China did and we’ll definitely need some support. We never had a source for emergency response when the problem started but Government has done a lot to put in protective equipment especially for our health workers working in the frontline,” he said.

Adding, “As we move ahead, it is becoming more clear that we may need, all of us, to begin to wear some of these things, so this gesture is not something we can underscore as Ghana makes efforts to add all.”

He further noted that some 5 local companies have been selected and will soon begin work to produce and manufacture several of these PPEs for use in the country.

“We are continuing to develop some of this equipment, for protection in-country and soon you’ll see government efforts also coming. By the end of the week, about 5 selected companies will start sewing some of these overalls, protective masks and all that we need we will be able to provide in our country.”

The Chinese Ambassador to Ghana, H.E. Shi Ting Wang on his part reiterated China’s commitment to helping other countries and continents including West Africa, battle the disease considering China has seen a significant drop in figures and casualties as far as the pandemic is concerned.

“Many Chinese companies are also doing their best to support Ghana and other African countries. The Chinese government, for its part, will further strengthen medical cooperation with African countries in a bid to contain this pandemic…as a truthful friend of Africa, we will spare no effort in our support to African countries,” he said.

Foreign Minister, Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey and China’s Ambassador to Ghana, H.E. Shi Ting Wang, among others were present at the Arriving Ceremony of Chinese Aid to 18 African Countries for the Fight Against COVID-19.

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