Lifting the lockdown, a robust plan for healthcare expansion and what next? – Ghana’s COVID-19 story

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Following the lifting of lockdown measures in Ghana, the West African country has become the first in Africa to have taken such a move after the country’s progress in combatting coronavirus.

President Akufo-Addo in a televised address on April 20, 2020, announced the end of the three-week lockdown, which was imposed on parts of Accra and Kumasi.

Despite the lifting of the lockdown, citizens are still encouraged to wear face masks and adhere to social distancing guidelines as a measure against the further spread of the virus.

Be that as it may, other restrictions including school closures and a ban on social events and public gatherings remain in place. In addition, the closure of the country’s borders has been extended for one month.

The President in his address to the nation said the decision was taken following successes in containing the spread of the virus, due to improved testing and an expansion of treatment centres.

Ghana’s relative success in limiting the effects of COVID-19 so far is principally attributable to a series of large-scale health care initiatives.

Alongside this, a new rapid-result testing programme has been established, with over 100,000 samples tested to date.

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A collaboration with US start-up Zipline is also expected to employ the use of drones to expedite the delivery of samples from more remote areas.

Amid these initiatives, President Akufo-Addo on April 27, 2020, announced plans to construct more than 90 hospitals in the country, saying that the pandemic had highlighted weaknesses in the system stemming from under-investments in the health sector.

The President disclosed in his eighth address to the nation that “There are 88 districts in our country without district hospitals; we have six (6) new regions without regional hospitals; we do not have five infectious disease control centres dotted across the country, and we do not have enough testing and isolation centres for diseases like COVD-19. We must do something urgently about this. That is why the Government has decided to undertake a major investment in our healthcare infrastructure, the largest in our history. We will, this year, begin constructing 88 hospitals in the districts without hospitals.”

There are around nine hospital beds per 10,000 people in Ghana, according to the World Health Organisation’s most recent data. If the plan goes ahead as announced, it will thus provide a significant boost to the country’s medical infrastructure, as well as generate jobs and investment.

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