Health Minister Kwaku Agyemang-Manu has refused to shake hands with minority leader Haruna Iddrisu in parliament over fears of contracting the deadly novel coronavirus which has killed more than 3,000 people globally.
The minister who is also the Member of Parliament for Dormaa Central, had gone to parliament Wednesday morning to brief his colleagues on measures taken by Ghana to prevent and manage the virus in the event a positive case is recorded in the country.
Although Ghana has not recorded any coronavirus case, the minister justified his refusal to shake hands with the Tamale South MP, stating the culture of handshaking in the country must be avoided as part of measures to prevent the spread of the virus which broke out in China in January this year.
Forty suspected cases have been recorded in Ghana since the outbreak but all proven negative after laboratory tests.
Despite this, Mr Agyemang-Manu said told parliament: “Our traditional handshaking culture must now be avoided as much as possible.”
Accordingly, he added, “I refused to shake hands with my very good friend Haruna, the minority leader, this morning in the chamber”.
The minister underscored the need for frequent handwashing and rubbing of alcohol spirits as part of measures to prevent one from contracting the disease which has been declared a health emergency by the World Health Organisation.
Mr Agyemang-Manu advised the public to keep a distance of at least 1 metre from a person showing signs of fever, coughing and or having difficulty in breathing.
“When [you have] contact with sick person or potentially infested surfaces or objects, it is advised that you refrain from touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands,” the minister advised.
He encouraged the general public to seek treatment immediately at the nearest health facility if infection is suspected and symptoms occur.
The minister said information on prevention have been developed and disseminated through the media, noting there are ongoing radio and television discussion on Ghana’s preparedness towards a possible coronavirus case.
“We strongly advise nonessential travel to and from affected areas should be discouraged as much as possible,” he appealed.
Meanwhile, Mr Agyemang-Manu has announced Ghana is working to secure a remotely located facility to be used as quarantine centre for novel coronavirus (covid-19) cases.
“Another remotely located 100-bed capacity facility is being secured for the purpose of quarantine for eligible persons,” he said, and assured the facility will be ready for use in two weeks from now.
“As yet, we’ve not found any Ghanaian that has contracted this disease either in country or even outside country,” Mr Agyeman-Manu said, and assured that the government and its development partners were working hard to prevent Ghana from recording a coronavirus case.
He stated that a holding room has been identified at country’s main entry point, the Kotoka International Airport, to use for suspected cases.
The Greater Accra Regional Hospital (Ridge) and the Tema General Hospital have already been designated as treatment and isolation centres, but the Minister said all the five teaching and 10 regional hospitals in the country have the potential to manage covid-19 cases.
These facilities, he noted, have been engaged by the Health Ministry “to test how ready they are for any eventuality”.
Also, case management teams have been trained.
A total of 5,000 PPEs have been procured and distributed to all regions and major health facilities and points of entry in the country as well as some selected health facilities. More are being procured by government to help protect our frontline workers.