NEWS COMMENTARY CALLS FOR DECLARATION OF STATE OF EMERGENCY AS GHANA RISKS RECORDING MULTIPLE DIGITS OF GLOBALLY CONTAGIOUS CORONA VIRUS (COVID-19) PANDEMIC

The World Health Organization (WHO) has recorded about 5 percent fatality on corona virus, COVID-19 worldwide, with Italy recording 368 deaths per 24-hour, exceeding the Chinese 38 fatality rate per 24-hour. Ghana has 6 confirmed cases without death. Having in mind that, globally, COVID-19 has recorded over 145,000 confirmed cases, 5,400 fatalities, 71,694 life recovery and millions of isolated suspected cases, one will not be surprised with the WHO latest declaration of Europe as global epicenter of COVID-19 pandemic. The degree of severity to which our individual households and community members are susceptible to contracting COVID-19 has triggered mass declaration of national state of emergency as part of the WHO’s latest aggressive measures announced against COVID-19 crisis. Historically, local, national, regional and global state of emergency declaration is the most critical legal tool, used by the United Nations General Assembly in fighting and financing proactive epidemiological emergency response measures for recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction of fragile and dysfunctional communities and environmental structures.

The critical role of state of emergency declaration during pre-disaster, disaster and post-disaster phases was the main reason why the United Nations Health Agency conditioned its global member states to established mandatory constitutional articles and clauses, committing their nations to the WHO protocols on public health emergency of international concern. To effectively enforce its critical global emergency management tool, the United Nations General Assembly in 1989 mandated governments around the world to establish permanent state institutions for prevention and management of all categories of existing and emerging disasters or emergencies including the current global COVID-19 pandemic. Ghana under former President Jerry John Rawlings, then complied with the UN General Assembly resolution, by establishing the National Disaster Management Organisation, NADMO with the vision of building disaster-resilient Ghana. Parliament later empowered NADMO to legally mobilize state and non-state resources for efficient utilization towards disaster risks reduction, prevention, control and management of natural and human-induced disasters and emergencies such as COVID-19. By parliamentary enactment, NADMO Director-General, Nana Agyemang Prempeh and his National Disaster Management Committee are duty-bound to offer appropriate recommendations on imminence and prevalence of disastrous situations to its Governing Council for the Interior Ministry to seek parliamentary approval for Presidential declaration of national state of emergency.  From technical disaster risks reduction point of view, President Akufo-Addo’s Government has completely shifted Ghana’s reactive approach to more sustainable and proactive disaster and emergency prevention and management approach. Sadly, our frontline institutional leadership’s reactive approach to COVID-19 seems to have permanently abandoned the important roles of state of emergency and UNDP and Norwegian government-funded Nationwide Emergency Operation Centers with international video conference facilities activation, through the implementation of National Standard Operating Procedures for Emergency Response developed in 2010 by NADMO and their strategic local and global stakeholders.

Let us remember that, besides lack of vaccines to fight the virus, the world’s citizens condemned the WHO for their reactive and procrastination in handling COVID-19 crisis, especially the undue delayed tactics employed in declaring COVID-19 pandemic as public health emergency of international concern. The welcoming news is that, the WHO have learnt the required hard lessons and has since set the records straight, by recommending to global political leaders timely declaration of state of emergency, intensification of monitoring and identification of fresh and missed cases for testing, active contact identification and history tracking, quarantining of tracked contact victims, as well as isolation of suspected and confirmed infected patients for a safer world. This is the opportune time for Ghana to declare national state of emergency and utilize all presidential mandated powers such as expansion of COVID-19 testing centres by equipping universities’ medical laboratories and the northern scientific research institutions at Navorongo and Tamale to perform polymerase chain reaction testing on suspected patient and people with contact or travel histories with affected persons in the 5 regions of the north. Let us all work together to help contain the disease.

BY: IDDRISU NEINDOW BABA, NADMO ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICER, HWIDIEM IN THE ASUTIFI SOUTH DISTRICT OF THE AHAFO REGION.

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