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WHO’s revised recovery policy enables more persons to be discharged

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo says more persons are being discharged from COVID-19 isolation and treatment centres due to the adoption of the revised patient discharge and recovery policy of the World Health Organization (WHO).

Ghana as at Saturday, June 20, 2020, discharged a significant 10,473 persons from isolation centres across the country out of 14,154 positive cases, leaving 3,449 active cases being managed by health authorities.

President Akufo-Addo in a televised address Sunday (June 21) night to give an update on measures being taken to curb the spread of the disease, explained that Ghana’s approach to dealing with the pandemic was science and data-driven.

He pointed out that the initial handling of clinical care of COVID-19 patients was driven by the recommendation of the scientific community and the WHO which recommended two main criteria for declaring someone who had tested positive as having recovered from the disease.

“The first is that you no longer have symptoms, and the second is that you are no longer capable of infecting others. Initially, the scientific thinking was that as long you continue to test positive, you are capable of infecting others. Hence, the requirement for the two consecutive, negative tests before you are declared as having recovered, “he said.

However, the President held that with new scientific evidence and the WHO updating its clinical pathway of COVID-19 patients, and advising that after ten to 14 days, a person, with no symptoms, is unlikely to transmit the virus to others, even if the person continues to test positive, Ghana had to change its policy to reflect the recommendation.

According to WHO, asymptomatic patients, i.e. those who have tested positive for the virus, but are not exhibiting any symptoms after 14 days, are not likely to be infectious, and, therefore, are unlikely to be able to transmit the virus to another person.

President Akufo-Addo said that government, after 3 weeks of analysing and studying WHO’s revised policy, discharged some 5,925 persons who had recovered from the disease.

He said the new policy would inform the actions that government would undertake in the management of the pandemic, as some countries in the European Union, Singapore, India, Malaysia, Hong Kong, and in Dubai had done.

The President was however not happy that persons discharged from isolation and treatment centres were being stigmatised.

He said the development was “adding further dimensions to the already difficult problem of the pandemic, insisting that stigmatisation of persons with the disease was fuelling the increase in COVID-19 cases in the country.

“Part of the reason for the spread of the virus is the reluctance of some persons to admit they have tested positive, and go into quarantine for fear of being stigmatised, and, in the process, continue to be agents of the spread of the virus.

“Persons, who test positive for the virus, once they recover, do not pose any danger whatsoever to anyone, because the scientists tell us that they can no longer spread the virus.

“As I have said before, there is nothing shameful about contracting the virus, and, consequently, we do not have to lose our sense of community because of this pandemic,” he stated.

President Akufo-Addo assured that in line with the policy of providing optimal care for the sick, and reducing COVID-19 related deaths, the government will continue to mobilise holding-bay, quarantine, isolation and treatment centres across the country to ensure that health facilities are not unduly burdened.

He said approval had been given additional Intensive Care Unit bed facilities in the Greater Accra Region and a new treatment centre for the Ashanti Region. Both regions had recorded the highest number of cases.

Additionally, more laboratories are set up to strengthen clinical care to allow for real-time results, as well as the arrangement for a pool of specialist health professionals to complement the respective resident multi-disciplinary health teams at various treatment centres.

The President urged all and sundry to observe the enhanced protocols on social distancing and hygiene.

He said the wearing of masks was mandatory, warning that, “Leaving our homes without a face mask, a face covering, or a face shield on is an offence.”

“The Police will conduct random checks in the enforcement of this directive. If you are arrested by the police defying this directive, your sanction could be severe. So, please, let us, at all times, wear our masks. I appeal to each and every one of you to take this as a personal challenge, and help rid Ghana of the virus.”

“Even though, we now have a better understanding of the dynamism of the virus in our country; even though the majority of people who contract the virus do not show any symptoms at all; and even though Ghanaians are not dying in the hundreds and thousands that were originally anticipated, we cannot afford to be complacent, and let our guard down.

“Let us remain focused, and adhere to the enhanced hygiene, social distancing and mask-wearing protocols, that have, and must, become part and parcel of our daily lives for the foreseeable future. We can do it if we work at it,” he said.

There are currently 24 persons severely ill, six persons critically ill, with four (4) persons on ventilators in hospitals and isolation centres. Eighty-five persons have died from the disease.

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