Some staff of the Ghana Airport Company, Civil Aviation Authority, Customs Excise and Preventive Service and the Immigration Service who work at the Kotoka International Airport (KIA) are jittery over news of Nigeria announcing its first Coronavirus (COVID-19) case last Friday.

The staff are not comfortable with the set up at the airport to deal with matters concerning COVID-19 which is spreading from other continents to Africa.

According to a source at the airport, who spoke on condition of anonymity, some staff are shying away from searching passengers from Ethiopian and Emirates Airlines; the two major airlines that transit passengers from China to Ghana. The recent fear heightened when Nigeria became the first African country to record the COVID-19 case.

The source told B&FT that many staff are hesitant to engage any flight from Nigeria. “We know that we are not safe even though we get the assurance from our bosses. We know that some of our bosses don’t even trust what they are telling us and they won’t even want to be in our shoes.

This is what we do for a living and we cannot go home just because of the coronavirus news. We just want to see more changes here at the airport and more health personnel to enhance the assurance. We were lucky with Ebola and we pray we are lucky with this too,” she said.

Loose scrutiny at KIA

Reports were rife last week about porous checks at the airports with some students from China claiming they were loosely scrutinized apart from a form they were asked to complete upon their arrival at KIA.

Port Health Authorities have swiftly debunked the reports saying the questionnaire the students filled were Health Declaration Forms which was a mandatory measure recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The authorities stressed that the forms were to aid personnel from the Ministry of Health locate any entrant who starts to manifest symptoms of the novel coronavirus after incubation period.

The authorities at the airport explained that there are thermal scanners installed at the entry points upon arrival which are used to screen travellers in order to monitor their temperatures, and anyone with an unreasonable temperature is sent to the Ridge Hospital for further examination.

Government has also allocated GH¢2.5 million as a start-up fund to fight coronavirus, Health Minister, Kweku Agyeman Manu, revealed to Parliament on Tuesday, 4 February 2020.

The ministry has also designated the Ridge Hospital (Greater Accra Regional Hospital) and Tema General Hospital as initial case management centres in Accra to deal with a case of infection.

In a statement to the media, the ministry has directed all Regional Directors across the country to designate holding or treatment centres in their respective regions. “We are preparing to designate more centres in the highly populated areas of Accra, Kumasi, Takoradi and Tamale,” the statement said.

Also, Case Management Teams have been activated to manage cases at the designated national centres and are currently receiving orientation on the management of possible coronavirus cases, the statement said.

Ethiopian still flying to China but offer assurances

Currently, there is no direct flight from Ghana to China where the disease emanates but many passengers transit through Dubai on Emirates and Ethiopian Airlines into Ghana. Ethiopian Airline, Africa biggest airline has stated that it is not grounding planes to China but has reduced its frequency; a move many have described as having economical and not medical backing.

The Management of Ethiopian Airlines has assured its Ghanaian clients that it has stepped up passenger screening and aircraft disinfection process at the Addis Ababa Bole International Airport in accordance to the World Health Organisation (WHO) standards.

Ghana’s first-quarter passenger throughput expectation will be greatly affected by the phenomenon. Per a Bloomberg report, the outbreak of the coronavirus has prompted dozens of nations and airlines to restrict travel, increasingly isolating the country of more than 1.3 billion people. Nearly 10,000 flights were cancelled between the outbreak of the virus and Jan. 31, according to Cirium, which provides data and research on the travel industry.

African countries that have restricted flights to and from China include Morocco, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Egypt. The World Health Organization has so far said that such limits on trade and travel aren’t needed to control the spread of the virus.

Risk Communication

Mr. Agyeman Manu, touching further on the country’s preparedness, noted that social media messages have been developed for the general public. “These are aimed at informing the public on the disease and to inculcate the necessary preventive measures,” he said in the statement.

Due to the evolving nature of the outbreak, the Ministry said it is imperative that the general public continues to observe the preventive measures outlined in the earlier press release. These measures are:

Regular washing of hands with soap and water

Use of alcohol hand rub where available

Keep a distance of at least one step (one meter) from a person showing signs of fever, cough and difficulty in breathing

When contact with a sick person or with potentially infected surfaces or objects occurs, please avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands;

It is advisable to be physically active, drink plenty of water, eat well, reduce stress and have enough sleep

People should seek treatment immediately if an infection is suspected, if symptoms occur or when advised by a health worker

Report any symptoms to the nearest health facility

“The MoH continues to work with the World Health Organisation country office for Ghana and other partners to continuously monitor the situation and institute measures to prevent an outbreak in Ghana. We continue to urge the general public and all stakeholders to support efforts at preventing 2019-nCoV in Ghana. The MoH said it will update the nation on developments as and when they occur.”

Published by Mr Kelly Brown

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