Ghana’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic in recent days has been rife with controversy, mainly erupting from the recovery figures after some 1,000 patients recovered in the space of 72 hours.
The argument of many, including politicians, civil society groups, and some well-meaning Ghanaians is that the huge number of recoveries is quite suspicious. Hence some of the critiques, like Joyce Bawa Mogtari, an aide to former President John Dramani Mahama, as well as investigative journalist, Manasseh Azure Awuni are demanding that Ghanaians subject these figures to strict proof.
In an attempt to put the matter to rest, a Deputy Health Minister, Dr Bernard Okoe-Boye has given a detailed explanation of the processes which lead to the declaration of a group of persons as recovered from the virus.
Dr Okoe-Boye told Joy News on Sunday that unlike diseases like malaria, or fever that needs symptoms to cease from showing before a person is declared recovered, COVID-19 patients need to be subjected to the strict World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines, which ensure that patients test negative for two consecutive times before they are tagged as recovered.
“When we say someone has recovered, from COVID-19, there are three things the fellow must satisfy; firstly, all the symptoms that come with COVID, should you be symptomatic, all must go away. Secondly, you who tested positive once upon a time must test negative for the first time, then you’ve satisfied the second criterion. There’s a third one which is that you must be negative for the second consecutive time, then you are declared recovered.”
“So if I have no symptoms but I’m COVID-19, in three weeks or four weeks, they take my samples and I’m negative that’s stage one. As for my second test which might come usually a week or two or three, when they take my sample it’s just a matter of time to hear what they will say, so if they take my sample today and the results come in three days and they say now I have recovered, remember I didn’t recover the day they declared the results. Because if I’m negative at the time you took my sample, and the results tell you I’m negative, it happened before you came to me when I had satisfied the criterion but the results must prove it,” he explained.
Explaining what has caused the huge jump in the country’s recoveries from 670 on Thursday, May 14, 2020, to 1,754 on Saturday, May 16, 2020, Dr Okoe-Boye said Ghana has increased its testing capacity and can take about 5,000 tests per day, which makes conducting the second testing for patients faster than before.
Due to this enhancement in the testing capacities, Dr Okoe-Boye says it is possible to have about 2,000 persons recovering in a day. Although he explained that declaring a certain number of recoveries does not mean the recoveries happened within a day.
“So if you have 1,000 folks, they are all walking around, they’ve had their first test which is negative, all they are doing is that they are waiting to be tagged. Not that they have a problem but they want to fit criteria, which is that the second test must be negative and so really, you can have 2,000 who are declared recovered, all it means is that their results went through Noguchi or the other labs and the results are in, so it is not the day they declared the results that they recovered, but they were just meeting criteria.”
“If we are waiting for 136 samples and samples of those who have tested negative already we have like a thousand, that goes to Noguchi, remember now our daily capacity is minimum 5,000. If even 2,000 tests reach Noguchi and add up to that 136 that were waiting, that comes to over 2,000 tests, they have the capacity to do all that overnight so my point is simple, the fact that someone says a number is waiting…and this thing is fluid, numbers are fluid, people are getting tested, some get positive, others are recovering, and leaving the number, as we speak, samples are on their way to Noguchi and I know they are working 24hours, results are coming in so if someone mentions 136 at one time, it’s possible that even by the time we left the show other samples have reached Noguchi and tests will be run so these are some of the things that can account for this,” he added.
Dr Okoe Boye added, “When someone has let’s say malaria, and they are having chills and high temperature, vomiting and all that when we tell you that they have recovered, what you imagine is that they are now well. And so I sort of know the thinking that makes someone say how come overnight a thousand people recovered but if you appreciate the definition of recovery in different disease patterns, then you know what is happening. When we say someone has recovered, from COVID-19, there are three things the fellow must satisfy.”
Meanwhile, chairman of the National Risk Communication and Social Mobilisation Committee of COVID-19, Dr Aboagye da Costa has urged Ghanaians to expect more recoveries from the virus.