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DESENSITISATION – a threat to fighting COVID-19

Business & Financial Times

Desensitisation, in this regard, is the phenomenon where the same people in our Ghanaian society that were very much concerned about the impact and threat of the novel coronavirus on our health and livelihood at large, have developed a much weaker emotional response to current COVID-19 issues. This is definitely partly due to the fact that, when we receive continual messages about the dangers of the COVID-19 over a long period of time, this inadvertently contributes to our desensitisation.

I fell victim to this yesterday… to the desensitisation thingie, not coronavirus. This is an opinion piece.

I remember Foster telling me how he had shopped for two whole months’ worth of food in preparation for the lockdown, and me thinking “well that means I have to shop for three months’ worth of food if he’s is shopping for two… gotta be extra prepared”. This was late March, when COVID paranoia was at its peak, and for good reason too. 

The first day I returned to the office after the lockdown got lifted, I was in full hazmat-mode: I had gloves on… and spare gloves for my spare gloves for my other spare gloves… I wore an N95 face mask with an additional half a dozen spare masks on standby for if someone were to touch my worn mask… and about a gallon of hand sanitizer in very short reach for good measure. Got hospital grade disinfectant for the office too. I mean, you can never be too careful in these times, right? 

Right.

Fast forward to yesterday and I instinctively got slightly frustrated when Alan’s receptionist insisted very firmly that I go back and grab a face mask from the car before going up to see him. Why was frustration my initial reaction and not gratefulness for reminding me to safeguard my own life? During my walk back to the parking lot, I wondered the extent to which we as a people are getting desensitised to the threat of COVID-19.

Over the weekend, the President of Ghana mandated the Police to enforce the wearing of face masks in public. This is in response to the recent spike in the number of confirmed cases, amongst other matters. We need to all follow this instruction because a lot of people have been paying much more attention to the sanitiser part of the solution than the face mask part, moi inclusive, regrettably. Sanitisers are good. They keep your hands clean and as long as you don’t touch your face, and contaminated surfaces that you come into contact with do not get to infect you. That’s all well and good. Still, you need the face mask, maybe even more than the hand sanitisers.

Let me explain.

When someone is infected, the virus responsible named the Sars-CoV-2 virus will hijack the cells of the living person and begin to replicate itself. As it continues to make copies of itself in the infected body, it will eventually reach the cells in the lungs.

When multiplication of the Sars-CoV-2 virus in the cells reach a certain point, the newly made viruses will burst out of the cells and become suspended in your bodily fluids. An example of your bodily fluids is whatever watery droplets that come out when you cough or speak. When an infected person coughs, they are basically spraying tiny infected droplets known as aerosols into the air, and that’s not even the scary part.

One single cough from an infected person can produce up to 3000 droplets. So unless both your nostrils come with its own naturally-made sanitising filter that protect you against the tiny infected aerosols suspended in the air that you might breathe into your lungs, WEAR YOUR FACE MASK!

It gets scarier!

There have been reports that asymptomatic transmissions contribute to about 50% to 80% of COVID-19 confirmed cases. It means infected people that are not actively coughing or showing any signs of illness are transmitting the most. We have been so desensitised that we seem to forget easily that these should trigger us to be more vigilant. You won’t be able to readily tell if someone is sick.

It gets even scarier!!

Valentyn StadnytskyiPhilip AnfinrudAdriaan Bax and Christina E Bax. These four published a study concluded that COVID-19 can, in some instances, be transmitted through speech… THROUGH SPEECH!! Study showed that just uttering the words “stay healthy” sprays thousands of invisible droplets. Why wouldn’t you want to wear a face mask? Protect yourself. Sound out “stay healthy” from your own lips and you’d find that it is very possible to spray very tiny droplets saying those two words.

At this very moment as I’m typing these words, which is Friday 19th June 9:21am, the Ghana Health Service website reports of 12,929 confirmed cases, which will surely rise to over 13,000 confirmed cases by the time this gets published Monday morning. THIRTEEN THOUSAND is very far from the just TWO confirmed cases that Ghana’s Health Minister Kwaku Agyemang-Manu announced on the 12th of March.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has this clipart that showed how one infected person infects 2.5 people on average in 5 days, and 406 others within 30 days. I believe the current spike in the number of confirmed cases is as a result of us not following the recommended safety measures like social distances and the wearing of face masks.

The Government of Ghana is experiencing her fair-share of a beatdown due to the pandemic. Less than a year ago, Ghana was continuously touted as the rising shining star from West Africa, literally one of Africa’s fastest growing economies in the region. But due to this pandemic, businesses were closed and with that came a myriad of fiscal issues.

The recently published Fiscal Developments Report of the Bank of Ghana showed that our country lost out on GH¢3.6 billion during the months of January, February and March. The figure came from the estimated national revenue and grants inflow of GH¢13.9 billion as against the reduced actual inflow of GH¢10.4 billion. GH¢3.6 billion could have funded a lot of national projects. I also think the aviation sector has taken the worst beating of all during this pandemic. 95% of Ghana Civil Aviation Authority’s revenue has been wiped out. The sky is also on lockdown; where’s business gonna come from for the sector?

So Ghana is on high alert while trying to control the fiscal bleed. I believe all this testing is part of an effort to save as many lives as possible. Ghana is one of the highest testing countries in Africa. The increased numbers should make you more cautious, yes. It should let you recognise the present threat, yes. 

But do not forget that the people having these confirmed cases are not released into the public. They are isolated, quarantined and treated. You can’t treat cases you don’t know. You can’t cure infected citizens you haven’t diagnosed. The high cases only reveal the seriousness of the issue. In this instance, I fully prefer to know the extent of the situation rather than be ignorantly blissful that Ghana had recorded a low number of confirmed cases that is due to reduced testing.

Like the President said, without testing, how can we isolate.

Do not fall victim to this virus. The damage it does is not even fully known. When someone speaks, big droplets easily fall to the ground or stay on surfaces for a period of time. But small tiny aerosol droplets remain suspended in the air. Sars-CoV-2, the coronavirus, has been known to survive in these aerosol droplets for up to three hours. The cars you sit in could have suspended and infected aerosols even before you got in. The buildings you walk into could have suspended and infected aerosols even before you walked in.

Your requisite line of action is quite simple so do as the President has instructed and WEAR YOUR FACE MASK!!!

I shall endeavour to do same.

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