Ghana has put public health management systems on high alert, following the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) advice to its member states on the coronavirus outbreak, Mr Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, Minister of Health, has disclosed.
The Health Minister said the country had triggered various actions which included the activation and strengthening of all Public Health Emergency Management Structures, ( National, Regional and Districts), also the regular meetings of the National Technical Coordination Committee (NTCC) which is multi-sectoral and multi-disciplinary.
Periodic meeting of experts from the Ministry of Health, Ghana Health Service, WHO, Veterinary Services Department of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR) Immigration Service, Security Agencies, and the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.
Mr Agyeman-Manu, who was updating the media on Ghana’s preparedness towards the novel coronavirus outbreak, explained that although the country had not yet recorded any case of the disease, it was adhering to the WHO’s recommendations to all member states.
The WHO had advice member states to prepare and prevent further international exportation of the outbreak, by strengthening systems for containment including active surveillance, early detection, isolation case, and contact management.
The Health Minister said stakeholder engagements had also began with key institutions such as the authorities of the Kotoka International Airport (KIA), Tema Port and the Ghana Airport Company Limited respectively, regarding screening exercises for passengers at arrival points.
“We are screening for fever using walk-through thermometers and non- contact thermometers at the KIA and other designated points of entry,” he said.
Mr Agyeman-Manu indicated Health Declaration Forms to extract salient information from travelers to assess their risk profile are also being used at the point of entry.
He explained that these forms were currently being applied at all international arrivals at KIA Terminal 3.
Mr Agyeman-Manu said aside these efforts, case definition have been developed to help clinicians detect potential cases and manage it appropriately.
He said sensitization and training of healthcare workers and all other frontline staff especially at the points of entry – port health, immigration, customs, and training of staff at the designated treatment centers have started and were ongoing.
“Large scale awareness and training of health workers are also planned for immediate rollout,” he said.
Again in respect to laboratory confirmation, the NMIMR had demonstrated capacity to conduct test for confirmation, adding that designated treatment centers, isolation facilities and holding places for the management of confirmed and suspected cases respectively were ready.
Currently four treatment centers including the Tema General Hospital, Ridge Regional Hospital, Ga East and the Police Hospitals respectively, as well as other regional facilities with the potential capacity to treat cases have been selected for the course.
“We have conducted training for the Case Management Teams in Tema and Ridge Hospitals, and are in the process to scale up, and we have dedicated ambulances for safe transport of suspected and confirmed case for further management,” he said.
He said the Ministry continues to work with its development partners to monitor the situation and further strengthen systems to prevent the introduction of the coronavirus outbreak in Ghana, and detect early if it should occur.
Again the Ministry had met with the Chinese Ambassador to Ghana and discussed issues relating to regulating high risk travels to and from the affected areas in China.
He said the Chinese Ambassador at the meeting, described Ghana’s preparedness towards the outbreak as highly professional and suggested against mass evacuation of Ghanaian nationals in the affected areas, giving the assurance that no Ghanaian in the affected area was infected, and that China was doing its best to contain the outbreak.
The MOH in collaboration with the NTCC also organised a trip for the media to the KIA, to observe the preparations being made so far by the MOH and its partners to contain the coronavirus from spreading to the country.
Ghana News Agency observed at the arrival hall that all frontline staff were in protective gears including nose masks and hand gloves.
There were thermal thermometers mounted at the arrival hall to check the temperatures of all passengers, after which they are to disinfect their hands with alcohol sanitizers before proceeding to the immigration desks for the officials to check their particulars.
Dr Dennis Laryea, the National Coordinator, in charge of Port Health, told the media that a passenger with his or her temperature rising above 37.5 degree Celsius would be separated and placed in the holding room for further observation.
“If need be the person would be transported by a standby ambulance to the Ridge Regional Hospital for immediate treatment,” Dr Laryea stated.
He also said adequate information about the disease, its mode of transmission and treatment, were on display at the area near the luggage belt, so that while passengers waited for their luggages, they could access such information, and also through the Airport’s PA system.
Dr Laryea, advised all passengers to give genuine and accurate information about their health statuses and addresses for further follow-ups if need be to help prevent the spread of the disease to save lives.
He said the coronavirus infection does not have a cure yet and prevention was symptomatic, and thus prevention was mainly by adherence to cough and sneezing etiquettes and improved personal Hygiene such as regular hand washing with soap and water.