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Saturday, February 4, 2023

COVID-19: Takoradi Fishing Habour Closure and Future Reopening

Dr Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa recently revealed that “the third wave is picking up speed, spreading faster, hitting harder in Africa. With rapidly rising case numbers and increasing reports of serious illness, the latest surge threatens to be Africa’s worst yet.”

Her statement emphasized that COVID-19 cases have risen for five consecutive weeks since the onset of the third wave on 3rd May, 2021. That as of 20 June, Africa had recorded around 474,000 new cases a 21% increase compared to same period of the second wave. According to the WHO, the Delta variant has been detected in most samples sequenced across Africa. As it stands now, the Delta variant which is believed to be more transmissible and deadly, has been reported in 14 African countries including Ghana. Ghana’s detection was made known in a press statement released by the Ghana Health Service (GHS) on June 22, 2021.

“Ghana has detected six Delta variants of the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19 virus) from all samples taken between April and June 2021 at the ports of entry. No Delta variant has been detected from samples taken from cases in the community.”

This however was short lived when in a later statement, the Ghana Health Service confirmed that it has “informed the COVID-19 Task Force on Friday, July 2, that the Delta Variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus had been recorded within a community in the latest round of genomic sequencing.”

Dr Patrick Kuma-Aboagye, director general of the Ghana Health Service (GHS) again, confirmed days after, that, 136 out of 550 samples taken among students in Achimota School came out positive for the Delta Varient. He stressed that, “the majority of the students who tested positive are, however, day students.”

To date, Ghana continues to see a spike in cases of SARS-CoV-2. From July 6- 19, 2021 the Ministry of Health published that “2415 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 were registered in Ghana. Also, as at July 19, there was a total of 812 casualties and 95,147 recoveries in the country. Overall cases reached its highest at 98,817.”

The Western region that hosts the Takoradi Fishing Harbour, according to the Ghana Health Service recorded a total of 5,988 cases from June 15, 2020 to June 15, 2021 with thirty five (35)  active cases being 35. The Harbour, officially named as Sam Bosomtwi Fishing Harbour, lies south of the twin city and bordered by the Sekondi-Essipong road to the west, the western naval command to the East, the suburb “European town” to the north and to the south, the Gulf of Guinea (Atlantic Ocean).

The fishing harbour and its environs are densely populated. It is always bursting with trading activities between fishermen and fish mongers. The men set to sea in the wee hours of the day. Early morning, fish mongers mainly women await to buy their catch. Many auxiliary trades such as selling of firework, fish smoking, descaling of fish, trading of ice packs and retailing of fish abound.

COVID-19 Protocols Adherence.

The established COVID-19 protocols by WHO and enforced by its member countries include; physical distancing, wearing a mask, keeping rooms well ventilated, avoiding crowds, cleaning your hands, and coughing into a bent elbow or tissue.” But what you witness when you arrive at thr fishing habour is absolute disregard to the above covid-19 protocols. No checking of temperature and no wearing of nose masks.

Also, there are no functioning hand washing stations. Social distance was absent as thousands of stakeholders’ throng to the harbour to trade. As humans and canoes compete for space, overcrowding is so evident to any observer.

Madam Ama Scheck, a retired educationist and petty trader at the European Town side gate of the fishing harbour vividly recalls the words of shared by some officers during a covid-19 sensitization campaign at the harbour.

“At the onset of Covid-19, people came to educate us on the disease and the protocols we have to adhere to. They said we should wash our hands frequently with soap under running water.A “veronica bucket” was placed at the entrance to the harbour and inside the trading area. But now they are no more, I just don’t know who came for them.”

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The trader does not underestimate the virus but her conduct is contrary to her belief.

“I believe the disease exists. I’m even hearing there is a new type from India. For me, I protect myself by taking hot meals. Initially, we all tried to adhere to the protocols but now that the disease has gone down, we have all relaxed”, Scheck narrated to ZAMIReports’s Joy Sena Anku.

A fish monger, Paulina Asmah corroborates the claims by Scheck on the erecting of hand washing stations. Among them was a sample donated by USAID. It stands tall in all its splendor but out of use and used to be a “side attraction” for patrons of the harbour.

“It didn’t even take the hand washing station two months before breaking down. It is inferior my sister, it is just a showmanship piece. Since it came here, people come here to only take pictures of it. We don’t even believe there is any disease oo. It is outside the fishing harbour even if there is. I have never heard of anybody here diagnosed or even died of COVID-19. God is our protection. It is the ‘18’ (abroad travelers) that went and brought their ‘19’(COVID-19). We those, who haven’t travelled anywhere, we are very much safe”, she revealed with so much confidence.

A fish monger, Paulina Asmah corroborates the claims by Scheck on the erecting of hand washing stations. Among them was a sample donated by USAID. It stands tall in all its splendour but out of use and used to be a “side attraction” for patrons of the harbour. 

Unfortunately, Mr. Edgar, a fisherman also shares same view.

“I don’t believe there is any disease called COVID-19 so I don’t need to to do anything or adhere to any protocol to protect myself from it.”

An opinion leader at the area gave an array of hope.

“So far as many people have died from the disease in other countries, it is a testament to its existence. That management of the fishing harbour with help from some NGOs and the Western Regional Coordinating Council at the onset of the pandemic educated the people on the disease, provided hand washing stations at vantage points and checked temperature of all people accessing the fishing harbour then. Unfortunately as human, we all go to sleep when situations improve.”

Interacting with the crowd, it is evident that they have great knowledge of COVID-19 and its safety protocols. Many believe it exists. A large number also deny it. The impression is that because the management of the premises have relaxed on enforcement, adherence to COVID-19 protocols at the Fishing Harbour is non-existent at the moment. On the field, many of the fisher folks were apprehensive of the imminent closure of the harbour throughout the month of July.

One can therefore expect the crowd that will throng to the Sam Bosomtwi Fishing Harbour when it finally opens for business in August if Covid-19 protocols are not intensified. One of the country’s fishing harbour may be another Covid-19 hotspot in coming weeks.

This story is supported by Journalists for Human Rights under the Mobilizing Media to Fighting COVID-19 project. 

By: Joy Sena Anku|www.zamireports.com|Takoradi.

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