Let’s stop stigmatisation of COVID-19 victims

Ghanaians have been cautioned against stigmatising victims and families affected by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), as such attitude would inhibit efforts to prevent the spread of the disease, but it seems the advice has fallen on deaf ears.

Despite the numerous sensitisation, people continue to stigmatise and shun victims of the disease who had been declared negative through series of tests  and also continue to label those who have returned from abroad as contracting the disease. 

Such victims go through psychological trauma as those in the community, instead of showing love to them, rather refuse to get close for fear that they might contract the disease.

The Spectator is concerned about the attitude of some residents in the Kwaiebibirim Constituency in the Eastern Region, who called on the chiefs and the Ghana Health Service (GHS) to evacuate a man from the community whom they suspected of contracting the COVID-19.

According to the residents, the man had returned from one of the countries that have been hard hit by the virus, so they would not stay with him in the same area.   

The fact is, those who returned from abroad were quarantined for two weeks and they underwent series of tests to establish their status, whether positive or negative. It implies that this man might have tested negative or had recovered if he initially tested positive. 

The fear is that if people are stigmatised, it would prevent those with symptoms of the virus from visiting the hospital for testing, and that means more people would be infected in case that person had contracted the virus but does not know his or her status.

It will pose more danger to the communities as the virus will keep spreading. Currently, the country has 5,408 cases with 514 recoveries and 24 deaths, but those who have died were said to have underlining health issues.

The earlier this issue of stigmatisation is addressed the better it would be for everybody because we are all at risk, no matter one’s status, whether rich or poor.

In fact, we all need to be knowledgeable and abreast of how the disease is contracted and what to do to prevent it, instead of allowing ourselves to be bombarded with rumours which will eventually cause emotional pain and make life unbearable for others.

The Spectator supports the advice of the Member of Parliament (MP) for Abuakwa North Constituency, Mrs Gifty Twum Ampofo, and urge the public “to stop the stigmatisation of coronavirus patients and rather show love and care towards them to motivate others to quickly visit the hospital or go to the testing centres if they have acquired the virus”. 

Indeed, the public needs more education on the coronavirus pandemic to take informed decisions in the best interest of all.

The Spectator is of the view that one major issue to stop the stigmatisation is to keep the privacy of those who may be part of the contact tracing and also those seeking health care.

Hopefully, a lot of people have recovered and Ghanaians have been informed by health experts that although there is no vaccine, the virus does not kill instantly.

The Ministry of Information (MoI) and the GHS should constantly sensitise people more in the local dialect to ensure that the citizenry are well-informed on the disease and what it means to declare a person as recovered. 

Let us stop the stigmatisation against COVID-19 victims and rather show love to them to build their self-esteem and to prevent the spread of the disease.

Above all, let us adhere to the health protocols by washing our hands regularly with soap under running water, using hand sanitisers and wearing face masks among others.

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