The College of Health Sciences (CHS) has held its 5th Biennial Public Lecture virtually under the theme “Update on COVID-19 in Ghana. Building a Resilient Strategy to Combat Future Pandemics.”
Provost, College of Health Sciences, Prof. Julius Fobil
Welcoming the participants, the Provost, College of Health Sciences, Prof. Julius Fobil, explained that the College holds the Biennial Public Lecture in line with its mission to promote health through education, research and service, as well as provide promotive, preventive and curative services to meet the health needs of the nation and the global community. He urged participants to enrich their knowledge of the COVID-19 pandemic, ongoing efforts to combat it in Ghana and strategies to prevent future pandemics.
Dr. Samuel Kaba Akoriyea, Director, Institutional Care Division of Ghana Health Service
In his opening remarks, the Chairman for the Lecture, Dr. Samuel Kaba Akoriyea, Director, Institutional Care Division of Ghana Health Service, noted that Ghana was lucky as a country not to have experienced the effects of Ebola during the outbreak in West Africa. He added that, COVID-19 issues should be discussed in a comprehensive manner. According to him, COVID-19 had proven that all units and sectors are inextricably linked to each other.
Prof. William Ampofo
Delivering his lecture on Update on COVID-19 Pandemic in Ghana, Prof. William Ampofo, former Head of the Department of Virology, Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research and Coordinator, National Laboratory Network for COVID-19 Testing, noted that the disease associated with the novel coronavirus, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), is still evolving, making it difficult to give periodic updates on it.
Prof. Ampofo indicated that public health measures in Ghana have been based on pillars of Testing, Tracking and Treating with Risk Communication providing important linkages. The testing led to the formation of the National Laboratory Network for COVID-19 which directly informed surveillance and case management.
He added that antigen screening coupled with mandatory quarantine for incoming air travelers had been a major containment strategy to mitigate foreign importation of the virus. Ghana has also adopted molecular screening of clinical cases using pre-existing equipment of the Tuberculosis Prevention Programme.
Limited antibody surveys have provided some data on surveillance, and specific vaccine-effectiveness studies are being initiated.
Early genomic sequencing of SARS-COV-2 by Ghanaian scientists provided timely evidence that informed major policy decisions. The notable achievements by pooled testing that provided disease intelligence gathering during the lockdown and the prioritization of laboratory supplies and stockpiling were major milestones in Ghana’s response, he noted.
Prof. Alfred Edwin Yawson, Head, Department of Child Health
Prof. Alfred Edwin Yawson, Head, Department of Child Health, University of Ghana Medical School, speaking on Ghana’s Strategy so far in Combating COVID-19 stated that the pandemic had demonstrated the critical importance of resilient health system in protecting health security.
Health systems globally have been severely overwhelmed by a large surge of patients with respiratory symptoms, lack of space, essential medical supplies, and workforce to manage patients.
It has affected millions and left thousands of mortalities in its wake globally. Ghana has made efforts and taken steps to control the pandemic, yet, we continue to experience the surges and waves as the pandemic evolves, and has really tested the resilience of the health system.
As a nation with a large proportion of the vulnerable unvaccinated population, all preventive measures that have served us so well must be strengthened and continued – wearing of facemasks, handwashing and sanitizing the hands, social/physical distancing, and avoidance of mass gatherings.
Unfortunately, these measures have been extremely difficult to enforce and comply with at the individual and population levels.
According to Prof. Yawson, the government’s response to limit the effects of the pandemic on socio-economic activities including, limiting and stopping the importation of cases, detecting and containing cases, caring for the sick, social and economic responses have protected the most vulnerable, and deepened self-reliance.
Prof. Ernest Kenu
Speaking on the topic: Strategies to Combat Future Pandemics, Prof. Ernest Kenu, an Epidemiologist at the Department of Epidemiology and Disease Control, School of Public Health, indicated that at the stage of prevention and preparedness, international health regulations should be strictly enforced in all countries with standardised mechanisms in all states.
Prof. Kenu mentioned that in combating future pandemics, strategies should focus on emergency preparedness, stringent behavioural controls from household levels along with holistic multisectoral support that provides adequate financial and infrastructural preparation before, during and after pandemics.
This year’s Biennial Public Lecture was the first time to be organised virtually with all three speakers from the College of Health Sciences.
University officials who participated included Prof. Andrew Anthony Adjei, Chairman, Planning Committee for the Biennial Public Lecture; Mr. Michael Opare Atuah, College Secretary, CHS, Mrs. Elizier T. Ameyaw-Buronyah, Director, Public Affairs Directorate; and Members of the Planning Committee.