The Ministry of Information, Ghana Health Service, and Partners have provided a one-day workshop for the Eastern Regional House of Chiefs on the COVID-19 pandemic and the progress so far made by the country.

The workshop was chaired by His Royal Majesty, Okyenhene Osagyefo Amotia Ofori Panin, and the President of the Eastern Regional House of Chiefs and Paramount Chief of Akyem Abuakwa.

In his opening remarks, Okyenhene Osagyefo Amotia Ofori Panin on behalf of his chiefs thanked the President H.E. Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo Addo for his leadership and management of Covid-19 and the measures put in place to slow down the spread of COVID 19 in Ghana.

Okyenhene Osagyefo Amotia Ofori Panin recounted some of the mitigating measures put in place by His Excellency, the President of the Republic as the COVID-19 alleviation package which includes the initial preparatory allocation of $100 million, provision of fifty percent (50%) basic salary for frontline health workers for six months, wavier of income tax for six months, free electricity, free water, and financial stimulus packages for medium and small-scale enterprises among others.

Further, Okyenhene Osagyefo Amotia Ofori Panin remarked that the pandemic has brought about the new normal which has affected our lives and gatherings such as funerals and religious activities.

“Today we all have to wear a face mask every day, practice social distancing and good hand hygiene at all times” he noted

Osagyefo promised to lead public education in the Eastern Region and encouraged his colleagues to replicate this in their various areas to promote community ownership of the safety protocols.

The Eastern Regional Minister, Hon. Eric Kwakye Darfour noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused serious human suffering and challenged the foundation of our society. This situation has necessitated measures and response by government and non-state actors to support the citizenry. He said the government’s new strategy is to enhance greater community participation to deepen awareness on how to sustain adherence to the COVID-19 safety protocols.

The workshop was led by the Director of Health Promotion at the Ghana Health Service and Leader of Risk Communication and Social Mobilization for Ghana's COVID-19 Response Team Dr. Da costa Aboagye whose presentation focused on COVID-19 preventive protocols, Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs), stigma, Health Promotion, and Prevention.

He said although COVID-19 statistics in Ghana looks encouraging in terms of the rate of recoveries, low death rate, and declined active cases, it is important to sustain the gains.

Dr. Dacosta noted that Ghana cannot be complacent with adherence to safety protocols. “The wearing of a mask is reducing by day, social distancing is not being strictly followed, and the frequency of handwashing has also reduced significantly. This picture gives as a cause for worry”.
He, therefore, charged the Chiefs and Queen mothers to own the safety protocols, educate their subjects on COVID-19 and increase public perception on the importance of continued use of facemasks.

Dr. Da costa further posited that the pandemic has not left us yet and there is no vaccine to protect us against the virus. The current solution lies in adherence to safety protocols.

Touching on stigma, Dr. Da Costa said “the current COVID-19 outbreak has provoked social stigma and discriminatory behaviors against infected persons, communities, families, etc. and the impact is that, it will essentially drive people to hide the disease to avoid discrimination, prevent people from seeking healthcare early, discourage healthy behaviours and affect the mental health of infected people.” Dr. Da Costa urged the chiefs and opinion leaders to do their part through all forms of engagement with various groups in their catchment areas with education on COVID 19 while also providing leadership to help fight this pandemic through community-based education.

Speaking to CitiFm after the program, Dr. Dacosta said Government will focus on a health promotion and prevention program dubbed the wellness program as a method for early detection of diseases with the aim of institutionalizing 'prevention is better than cure’ in our health system to support curative healthcare delivery.

Dr. Da Costa said the programme will provide a platform for every Ghanaian to at least check their health status once a year. This program will help profile Ghanaians for the early detection of diseases.
This will also help to reduce the high disease burden cost of NHIS.

“The media should help educate and encourage Ghanaians to do regular exercise; to eat our local foods as well as eat more fruits and vegetables, have enough rest, and avoid stress" he urged.

Leading the Ministry of Information delegation was the Deputy Minister for Information Hon. Pius Enam Hadzida and in his address requested the revered chiefs to lead the rollout of the community engagement and risk education strategy to deepen awareness of COVID-19 in sustaining the safety protocols. He said government indeed appreciate the partnership with traditional authority in national development agenda particularly their support in the enforcement of the restrictions that were imposed during the lockdown period.

Hon. Pius Enam Hadzida intimated that the government’s strategy was anchored on 5 main pillars.

• Limit importation of COVID-19 Cases
• Contain community spread to the barest minimum
• Provide optimum care for affected persons
• Limit the impact of COVID-19 on the socioeconomic life of Ghanaians
• Deepen our self-reliance and increase production capacity
He said measures deployed by the government to fight the virus were necessary for the interest of public health. He intimated that “the rate of recoveries has increased tremendously, as 29th September 2020 confirmed cases were 46,482 with a total of 45,651recoveries making 98% recovery rate. Active cases were 530 and 301 deaths.

“Around the world, it appears there is a second wave so we must continue to strengthen our country's response to COVID-19 pandemic to minimize the risk and negative impact posed by the disease," he said.

In his concluding remarks, the Deputy Minister for Information Hon. Pius Enam Hadzida noted that “despite the success in the recovery rate we need to guard against further community spread by strictly adhering to the safety protocols”. He thanked the chiefs for their instrumental role in the fight against COVID 19.