Explaining the spike in Covid-19 recovery cases in Ghana

As part of its routine update on the Covid-19 situation in Ghana, the Disease Surveillance Department of the Ghana Health Service and the Ministry of Health revealed that there had been a total of 10, 074 recovered cases, on 20 June 2020.

The updated number of total recoveries indicated an increase of about 6,000 recoveries since the last update of 4,548 recovered cases the day before. This has consequently led to some Ghanaian social media users’ doubt in the sudden increase in recovery cases, as it is assumed to have happened overnight. While others have noted that the numbers are inconsistent with previous recovery rates, others have also requested for an explanation on the increase in recovered cases. 

GHS announced an amended discharge policy before reporting the recovery cases

What some Ghanaians may not have been privy to prior to the sudden spike in recovery cases is that an amended discharge policy was announced. 

On 18 June 2020, two days before the ‘10,074 recovery cases’ was reported, the Director-General of Ghana Health Service, Dr Patrick Kuma-Aboagye, announced and explained the amended Discharge Policy for Covid-19 patients during a press briefing at the Ministry of Information. He later elaborated on the change in policy in some media interviews the same day.

Dr Kuma-Aboagye stated that the new guidelines for discharging patients were in accordance with a revised policy from the World Health Organisation, and added that this policy of discharging patients was to take effect immediately. 

The amended discharge policy explained

At the press briefing, Dr Kuma-Aboagye stated new discharge protocols that had been agreed among some Ghana Health Service directors, stakeholders, and scientists indicating that resolution of symptoms, not tests, would be used in discharging patients. 

He said that asymptomatic Covid-19 patients would be discharged 14 days after the initial positive test. By this, such patients who were mostly in isolation centres could be discharged and did not require any further tests to prove negative, as they were not showing symptoms.

For symptomatic patients, he stated that they would be discharged three days after showing no symptoms, following 14 days after testing positive and responding to treatment. He further explained that for such patients who were mostly hospitalised and no longer pose any threat, they may now conduct their negative test at home and later go for a review as needed.

According to Dr Kuma-Aboagye, even though some patients did not yet have their lab results in, the new guidelines permitted for a significant number of people to be discharged unless patients had other conditions.

“We hope that will also allow us more time to focus on the new cases and be able to give more attention to those who are newly positive and then also create space in our facilities to be able to take care of new cases,” Dr Kuma-Aboagye said at the press briefing.

An official at WHO Ghana also explained to Dubawa that using the new discharged criteria, patients no longer have to wait for long to be discharged in contrast to the previous criteria which necessitated patients to undergo two negative tests before they could be discharged.

Are discharged patients considered recovered?

Even though Dr Kuma-Aboagye had stated earlier that discharges were not the same as recoveries, yet following the new protocol, the Ghana Health Service is now counting discharges and recoveries together.

“We do not intend to separate discharge and recovery”, Dr. Kuma-Aboagye  stated.

In a press briefing on 23 June 2020, he explained that the recoveries are clinical recoveries which indicated that such patients are symptom-free and are unable to infect others, as a result, they were discharged and considered as recovered. 

He stated further that all such persons should be received in society and not stigmatised. 

Hence, the new protocol for discharging patients caused the spike in the number of recoveries while the gap between the announcement of the amended discharge protocol could have startled citizens about the sudden rise of patients leaving hospital after receiving full treatment, apart from staying in the hospital to take post-treatment testing. 

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