Coronavirus

  • What are the facts about asymptomatic patients and the transmissibility of COVID-19?

    “I am asymptomatic, I do not transfer” – Hon Carlos Ahenkorah 

    While the WHO has stated that asymptomatic patients are less likely to transmit the virus, the global health organization and other health experts, have further stated that this knowledge is inconclusive and that global research is ongoing to ascertain this claim. Nonetheless, the CDC has provided evidence-based research on the transmission of the virus by asymptomatic people and how such persons have contributed to the spread of the virus in society.

    Full text

    While it is true that COVID-19 has been quite dynamic, the transmissibility of the virus remains a constant theme among health experts. It is because of the lack of a definitive statement about the transmissibility of the virus that health experts urge individuals to observe all COVID-19 protocols.  

    One of such protocols was reported to have been breached when a COVID-19 positive asymptomatic patient, Carlos Ahenkorah, member of parliament for Tema West and former deputy trades minister, who had been advised by his doctor to self-isolate, admitted to visiting his constituency’s voters’ registration centre where people had gathered to register for new Voter ID cards ahead of the elections in December 2020.

    In an interview with Citi Fm, the former minister was asked if he announced to the Electoral Commission staff, with whom he interacted, that he was positive in order for them to be careful. 

    In his response, he said:

    “I always explain myself this way, that I am asymptomatic, I do not transfer…. If I do not show symptoms, that’s what the WHO says, this time after 10 days you can go without doing any other tests.’’

    Mr Ahenkorah’s conduct has since been discussed extensively on mainstream and social media with many calling for his resignation which has been announced by the government.

    Verification

    Health experts on the transmissibility of asymptomatic patients

    In a publication on 11 June 2020, the World Health Organisation stated that available evidence from contact tracing reported by countries show that asymptomatic patients are much less likely to transmit the virus than those who develop symptoms. 

    The organization further added that, 

    “Comprehensive studies on transmission from asymptomatic patients are difficult to conduct, as they require testing of large population cohorts and more data are needed to better understand and quantify the transmissibility of SARS-CoV-2. 

    WHO is, therefore, working with countries around the world, and global researchers, to gain better evidence-based understanding of the disease as a whole, including the role of asymptomatic patients in the transmission of the virus”. 

    Other reports here, here, also indicate that the WHO and some health experts have stated that research is ongoing and that the transmissibility of asymptomatic patients is rare or unlikely is inconclusive. 

    Other public health experts also state that although they “don’t know how much spread is caused by  asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic patients, there are some telling hints that it is a major driver of this pandemic.”

    The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in a research publication, has also provided evidence on the transmissibility of the virus by asymptomatic people. The research indicated that asymptomatic people have contributed to the rapid spread of the virus in communities.

    Dubawa also spoke to a Ghanaian medical expert, Dr Senyo Misroame at Tantra Community Clinic.

    Dr Misroame stated that once a person has tested positive, they are required to be in isolation. Misroame added that in practice, patients in the Ghanaian community are not required to leave isolation until after 14 or 21 days when they have been cleared by tests.

    He further explained that even though medical experts are not too sure as yet about the transmissibility of asymptomatic patients, it is not safe to take any chances, hence the caution to for people to adhere to safety protocols in each community.

    “It is uncertain to know who has the virus or not especially if they do not show symptoms, that is why the protocols of wearing face masks, social distancing, regular handwashing have been advised strongly by health experts,” Dr Misroame said.

    Conclusion

    The claim that asymptomatic patients do not transfer the virus is misleading. Although the WHO has stated that asymptomatic patients are less likely to transmit the virus than symptomatic patients, the organization has also indicated that evidence about transmissibility is inconclusive, as global research is on about this dimension of the disease. While other medical experts remain uncertain of the transmissibility of asymptomatic people, they insist on the necessity to heed all Covid-19 safety protocols, especially as the CDC has provided an example of transmission of the virus by some asymptomatic carriers of the virus in society.

  • Curbing the Spread of Covid-19 misinformation: Trends and Tips for spotting ‘Fake News’.

    Over the last few months, we have not only had to deal with a pandemic but also with what the World Health Organisation (WHO) calls an ‘infodemic’. Separating truth from falsehood has been a major headache for members of the public.

    We wake up to see such messages as “Share this information with your family and loved ones”, “forward to as many people as you can” on many social media platforms.

    Since March this year when Ghana registered its index case of COVID-19, the Dubawa team has come across several COVID-19 related messages, especially on social media platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp.

    Our fact-checking of these messages revealed similar results – the messages were either false or taken out of context. In fact, most of the posts flagged to Dubawa by Facebook as part of its Third-Party Partnership, especially on COVID-19 remedies, turned out to be false.

    We have also observed that false information flying around at a particular time is determined by current happenings or major events. Therefore, different types of false information surfaced when there was no reported case, no report of any index case, during the lockdown and now as schools have resumed.

    For instance, information that circulated when Africa had not reported a case claimed Africans were immune to the virus because of the hot climate. The narrative, however, changed after the continent registered cases.

    Trend/ patterns of COVID-19 false information

    We have noticed a trend in the kinds of COVID-19 related messages that have circulated on social media since the outbreak of the pandemic in Ghana. We put them into the following categories:

    1. Denial of the existence of the disease in Ghana
    2. Purported COVID-19 cures or remedies
    3. Photos and videos taken out of context
    4. Financial/ Internet Scams
    5. Playing politics with COVID-19 
    6. Conspiracy theories

    1. Denial of the existence of the disease in Ghana

    We found that when the disease started hitting other parts of the world, claims of African immunity and the inability of the virus to thrive on the continent on several social media platforms. Later when cases were registered, viral messages questioned or doubted the existence of the virus on the continent. Even when Ghana’s index cases were reported, old videos of health officials denying the presence of the virus in the country when no case had been recorded, were resurrected to say there was really no case recorded.

    2. Purported COVID-19 cures or remedies

    While the number of infections rises, purported remedies and cures for the virus also surfaced. This is a major theme that keeps recurring but was more widespread at the beginning of the pandemic in Ghana – as has been the case in other countries.

    And they keep resurfacing, sometimes with just a little tweak to them. It is, therefore, not surprising to see a claim which has been debunked in March reappear on social media months later.

    The problem with some of these remedies is that people who share them do not necessarily agree on what they are supposed to do. So in one breath, we have seen messages which claim eating a bowl of freshly boiled garlic can cure COVID-19 and others that say it can prevent the contraction of the disease.

    We have also come across messages that say drinking alcohol (akpeteshie) can kill the virus that causes COVID-19. The logic behind this is that if using alcohol-based hand sanitizer will kill the virus, then drinking alcoholic beverages will do a much faster job.

    This information is not only false but is also very dangerous as we have heard of instances in other parts of the world of people who have died from binging on alcohol after circulation of similar messages in their countries.

    About two months ago, Sobolo (hibiscus tea) became very much sought after in parts of Ghana after a viral video claimed it had been used to treat and cure coronavirus in China. And messages to encourage Ghanaians to imitate Chinese by  using sobolo proliferated across the country.

    Our verification process showed that none of the supporting documents mentioned by the claimant backed the claim. In fact, one of the documents was about a study conducted in 2016 – when the world did not know about this new strain of coronavirus, COVID-19.

    That particular study was about how some selected tea extracts, including hibiscus tea, have shown effects on H5N1 highly pathogenic avian influenza virus (HPAIV).

    It is worth mentioning that hibiscus tea, according to research, may be useful in treating viral infections. However, currently, there is no evidence it has been used to cure or can cure COVID-19.

    Other remedies which have been popular on social media as preventive and curative remedies include the use of Dettol disinfectant, eating alkaline food or fruits, steam bathing (apun), inhalation of steam, eating ginger, lemon, gargling with saline solution, drinking lots of water, having loads of sex, chloroquine and hydroxyl chloroquine. Recently, there was a claim that people who have hair in their nostrils are unlikely to contract the disease.

    3. Manipulated photos, Videos

    Old photos and videos of events which happened prior to COVID-19 have reappeared online but with different captions implying they were incidents which happened during the current pandemic.

    As mentioned earlier, these videos are tied to major events or happenings. Therefore, during the partial lockdown of parts of the country, several videos circulated of military brutalities, some of which later proved to be false.

    For example, one viral video which found its way into mainstream media and was part of the evening news bulletin on a major TV station, claimed law enforcement agencies in Zimbabwe used force to enforce lockdown directives. The government of Ghana was, therefore, urged to imitate Zimbabwe. The video in question, however, had nothing to do with the pandemic but was of an incident which happened in 2019. Zimbabwe had not recorded a COVID-19 case at the time.

    Photos of food distribution exercises during the lockdown period were also taken out of context. We found them to be unrelated to the COVID-19 pandemic. Photos of a weeping Brazilian president were said to be of Italian president who had lost all hopes due to the havoc COVD-19 was wreaking on his country. Stories of Italians throwing away money because it had become useless to them all featured on social media. Again, these were old photos rehashed but with different narratives.

    4. Financial/ Internet Scams

    In the face of the economic hardships resulting from the pandemic, scammers also took advantage of the situation to dupe (or try to dupe) unsuspecting persons.

    Melcom was said to be giving out free vouchers; the WHO and phone manufacturing companies including Vivo to be running promos. Footballer Christiano Ronaldo was also purported to be giving out money to aid households affected by the pandemic and the Ghana Armed Forces undertaking ‘protocol’ recruitments.

    Some of these claims had unsafe links which redirected people to fake websites, while others circulated dubious instructions for getting involved in said promos.

    These were all false as parties said to be involved denied being that charitable.

    5. Conspiracy theories

    Conspiracy theories on the origin of the virus and even its existence were and are still viral.

    One photo claimed the WHO said it was unsure the virus exists on the African continent.

    Others claimed Bill Gates is behind the outbreak, that it was planned years ago as part of his goal to get the whole world vaccinated. Some also claimed President Barack Obama had warned Africans against being vaccinated as it was an attempt by ‘white people to kill Africans with their toxic vaccines’.

    6. Playing politics with COVID-19 

    Another worrying trend we have observed was the exploitation of the current situation by political actors to either make their candidates look good or to discredit political opponents. We have seen messages attributed to major political figures including the President and his appointees, the former president and flagbearer of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) and members of his party. In all cases when we verified, the claims were false.

    For instance, in March, a Facebook post which was flagged to Dubawa as part of its Third-Party Partnership with Facebook claimed that former President John Mahama said he would not contribute his money, which is earmarked for his campaign, to the COVID-19 fight. This claim we found out to be false.

    Another post flagged to us by Facebook in April said the President, Nana Akufo-Addo, said he would resign from the presidency and withdraw from the December 7 elections if Ghana’s COVID-19 cases exceeded 500. This was debunked by the Director of Communications at the Presidency, Eugene Arhin, when contacted.

    How can you verify information on Social Media?

    With the avalanche of information members of the public are being bombarded with day in and day out, how can we differentiate between true and false information? How can we do this, considering that despite several fact-checks, false information creators seem to be gaining the upper hand owing to the availability of sophisticated technology to aid them?

    While it is sometimes difficult to authenticate information we receive on social media, there are a few things we can do to ensure we do not fall for them and inadvertently share false information we receive on false message-carrying platforms.

    The first thing to do is NOT to immediately share or forward messages without verification, especially if they arouse in you strong emotions like fear and anger. It is sometimes a ploy by creators of false information to use you to gain traction. So VERIFY first, before forwarding to others.

    Here are some tips to guide you:

    1. Read beyond the headline: Unfortunately, headlines of some stories usually click baits, designed to get traffic unto another website designed by owners to scam readers. So read the entire content to get the full story. For instance, during the lockdown, we saw misleading headlines like this: ‘A total lockdown will be imposed if Ghanaians fails to adhere – Oppong Nkrumah warns.’ And just over the weekend, another sensational headline ‘Mahama arrested for defiling three girls’. Without reading the entire story, one will go away with a totally wrong notion.
    2. Who is the source of the information? Pay attention to the ‘contact us’ or ‘about us’ section of the page to validate and verify content creators. Are they a credible source of information or just promoters of satirical websites? On Facebook and other social media platforms, explore the account of the source to ascertain the kinds of information they usually share.
    3.  Check the author: If it is a random message on social media, find out who the writer is. Are they credible and are they even real? Beware of messages from ‘a friend’s sister who works in a hospital’, ‘a doctor in China’ and the ubiquitous ‘Didier Raoult. Does the author mention their source of information? Are they passing on factual information or are they just expressing their opinion?
    4. Explore the supporting evidence: Click on hyperlinks embedded in messages and documents cited to determine if they actually support the claim being made – as Dubawa did with the claim that Sobolo was used to treat and cure coronavirus in China.
    5. Check dates to be sure the message or information is not being used out of context. As has been exemplified from the very beginning of the pandemic in Ghana, old photos, videos and even textual content, unrelated to an event, can be rehashed during major crises.
    6. Pay attention to the writing, language and format: Sloppy writing characterised by grammatical and spelling mistakes is a sign that the message is likely false. Note that a press release or message from a government agency is unlikely to be informal, contain ‘slangs’ or grammatical errors.
    7. Pay close attention to the URLs: Many malicious news websites clone authentic sites with slight modifications to URLs. So we can have timeslive.co.za become t1meslive.co.za. Spot the difference? So a phoney or look-alike link may be an indication of false news.
    8. For content which is devoid of grammatical and spelling errors and some of the tell-tale signs of ‘fake news’ mentioned above, check out what other users are saying about the post. Read comments and questions left under the post – they may lead you to the truth.
    9. Videos and images are a bit tricky but still verifiable. Look out for visual cues or details in the photo or video – for example, shadows, reflections, street names, weather, odd body parts, lip synchronisation. Also, check comments by other users; sometimes they lead us to the truth. You can also use simple digital tools such as Google Reverse image search and Invid to authenticate photos and videos respectively.
    10. Verify with other credible news or information outlets or with fact-checking platforms: Google can also help with this – just copy and paste a portion of the message in the search engine and see what it churns out.
    11. You can ask for our assistance if you are unsure of information you receive. Contact us via WhatsApp: 0542 81 81 89, on Facebook @dubawa, Twitter @DubawaGh or via email @[email protected] Alternatively, you can check our website, Ghana.dubawa.org for more. 

    In conclusion, fact-checking or verification is very crucial in these times. It also yields results. From our partnership with Facebook, we know that about 95 percent of people who saw warning labels on posts which had been rated false by fact-checkers did not view the original content and therefore were not exposed to false information contained in them. Thus, when people are aware that the information they are about to consume is false, they avoid them. 

    Therefore, it is important to continue fact-checking to debunk false information and ensure members of the public, social media users especially, have access to factual and verified information.

    We continue to count on the support of relevant bodies in this endeavour.

  • FALSE; President Akufo-Addo did not caution Ghanaians against a COVID-19 plan by Rockefeller Foundation

    President Akufo-Addo has, in an audiotape, warned Ghanaians of a Coronavirus plan reported in an article by the Rockefeller Foundation.

    The speaker in the audio is not President Akufo-Addo. Although a document published by the Rockefeller Foundation in May 2010 with a chapter titled ‘Lockstep’ was found, the chapter does not contain the exact content read by the speaker in the audio. 

    Full text

    The conspiracies surrounding COVID-19 do not seem to be tailing off, as a 14-minute audio purported to be from the President of Ghana, Akufo-Addo, warns Ghanaians to pay attention to an alleged extract from an article titled ‘Rockefeller Lockstep 2010’ on the Rockefeller website. 

    In the audio, the speaker’s main claim is on the Rockefeller Foundation’s detailing of a simulated global outbreak, the required steps involved, the various phases required, the overall timeline and the expected outcomes.

    Some of the plans and phases the speaker purports to be from the article include: 

    1.The creation of morbid viruses such as SARS, MERS and HIV in a laboratory to be stolen and smuggled to Wuhan, China as a pandemic.

    2. The Foundation’s plans to fund organisations such as WHO, CDC and the UN

    3. The creation and funding of a vaccination development plan, vaccination verification certification protocols, digital IDs to enforce the vaccination program after the mandatory rollout is enacted

    4. The control of a depopulation agenda 

    5. The establishment of public quarantine to destroy regions’ economy

    6. The creation of civil unrest, breakdown of supply chain to cause the start of mass food shortages, as well as weaken immune systems due to lack of interaction.

    The speaker further requested for the audio to be passed around to create awareness so that the document can be pulled down from the Rockefeller website.

    The audio circulating is accompanied by a message which reads:

    THIS VERY IMPORTANT SECRET AUDIOTAPE BY THE PRESIDENT OF GHANA MUST BE CIRCULATED TO THE ENTIRE HUMANITY FOR EXTREME AWARENESS OF THE CORONAVIRUS PLOT

    Verification

    The speaker in the audio

    It is evident that the voice of the speaker in the audio is not that of President Akufo-Addo. Yet, Dubawa further contacted the spokesperson for the President of Ghana, Eugene Arhin, who could not be reached yet. Additionally, Dubawa has contacted the Ministry of Information and awaiting a response.

    President Akufo-Addo has made no official announcements in any publication or on any platform concerning such a matter. Rather, he continues to publicly update Ghanaians on measures and efforts by the government to contain the spread of the virus.

    The content of Lockstep 2010

    Dubawa found a 54-page pdf document titled Scenarios for the Future of Technology and International Development – a report produced by the Rockefeller Foundation and the Global Business Network, published in May 2010.

    The document focuses on how technology can help in globalisation by using scenario planning to develop strategies to respond to each scenario over a period of years.

    On page 18 of the document, which contains that chapter on the ‘Lockstep’ as a Scenario Narrative, the document indicates the LockStep to be ‘a world of tighter top-down government control and authoritarian leadership with limited innovation and growing citizen pushback’. 

    It predicts and narrates a global pandemic expected in 2012, which would affect world economies and international mobility of persons. It is also expected to affect industries such as tourism and break global supply chains. Locally, the global pandemic is also expected to affect shops and buildings by keeping them empty of supplies for months. The chapter also predicts how the most pandemic-prepared and developed countries would be overwhelmed, as countries such as America would be unable to contain the spread whereas China would have a quick and effective enforcement of mandatory quarantine for its citizens. 

    The global pandemic is also predicted to result in mandatory wearing of face masks, body temperature checks at communal spaces, and states that Ghana’s government would have ambitious programmes to improve basic infrastructure and ‘ensure the availability of clean water for all her people’ which would lead to ‘a sharp decline in water-borne diseases’. 

    It stipulates that people would grow weary of so much top-down control and letting leaders and authorities make choices for them to the extent that there would be protests. It further predicts that developed countries would have innovations and technology whereas developing countries’ access to technology would remain limited.

    It finalises the import of this narrative and provides timelines for the occurrences from 2010 to 2030. 

    Photo source: Rockefeller Foundation document

    Although the Rockefeller 2010 Lockstep chapter Dubawa accessed contains simulations on a hypothesised global pandemic with indicated timelines with the purpose of using technology to enforce governmental control on citizens, the chapter does not reveal the exact claims made by the speaker in the audio, unless such claims are otherwise contained in another similar document. 

    It is, however, certain that the speaker is not the president of Ghana.

    Conclusion

    The claim that the president of Ghana has cautioned Ghanaians of a Coronavirus plan by the Rockefeller Foundation is false. President Akufo-Addo has made no official pronouncement or publication of such announcements to Ghanaians.

    Also, even though the Rockefeller Foundation document containing the 2010 Lockstep chapter simulates a global pandemic and predicts its global effects, the content is not the same as the claims the speaker makes in the viral audio. 

  • The facts about the Covid-19 app on Android and iOS mobile phones

    A Covid-19 tracker has been added in the settings section of every Android and iPhone 

    A Covid-19 Exposure Notifications feature has been jointly designed by Apple and Google for its mobile phone users. The feature is by itself not a tracker and is only functional when a corresponding Covid-19 tracking application is downloaded and when the Bluetooth on the device is enabled. The feature is built to assist government and health authorities with contact tracing as users are notified with anyone who was reported to have Covid-19.

    Full text

    It is expected that most people are wary of their privacy. That is why a viral WhatsApp message suggests a tone of caution, alerting Android and iOS mobile phone users of an inserted Covid-19 tracker in their phones found in the settings section. 

    The message reads:

    Attention

    COVID-19 sensor has been inserted into every phone. Apparently when everyone was having ‘phone disruptions’ earlier this week, they were adding COVID-19 Trackers to our phones!

    If you have an Android phone, go under Settings, then Google setting and it’s there. If you have an iPhone, go to settings, privacy, then health, It’s there but not yet functional.”

    Please check and confirm. 

    The message has also been shared on other platforms.

    Verification

    Dubawa followed the directives in the message and found a COVID-19 Exposure Notifications feature found in the Settings and Google Settings section for Android users, and in the Settings, Privacy and Health section for iPhone users.

    As the viral message indicated that the feature is not yet functional, the feature shows that it is turned off till the user’s Bluetooth is enabled. Additionally, there needs to be an installation or finishing of a participating app before the Covid-19 exposure notifications feature is turned on. 

    Further, as the message stated of a sensor and tracker, the feature indicates that the app installed ‘can notify you if you’ve been near someone who reported having COVID-19’ 

    An example from an Android phone shows in the photos below:

    Source of photos: Forbes 

    What is the Covid-19 Exposure Notifications?

    In April 2020, two technology companies Apple and Google announced a partnership of introducing a Bluetooth enabled technology that would assist governments and health authorities with contact tracing as a measure to reduce the spread of  Covid-19.

    Google explains that,

    “Exposure Notifications on your smartphone enables contact tracing apps to send you a notification if you’ve likely been exposed to Covid-19. Contact tracing apps will be developed by your local public health authority, not by Google or Apple”

    Apple further explains that this is “to enable a broader Bluetooth-based contact tracing platform by building this functionality into the underlying platforms.’’

    They added that “This is a more robust solution than an API and would allow more individuals to participate, if they choose to opt in, as well as enable interaction with a broader ecosystem of apps and government health authorities’’

    Both technology companies by detailing how the feature operates here and here, have also stated that this feature is built to protect users’ privacy and security. These include settings such as users’ control over whether or not they receive exposure notifications, the feature’s inability to track users’ location and the identity of users remaining unseen by Google, Apple and other users.

    Photo source: Forbes

    As explained by the tech companies, Covid-19 Exposure Notifications is not an application; however, it simply notifies phone users once the feature is turned on, and it is also only effective when a corresponding Covid-19 tracking application from the users’ government public health authority is installed. 

    Thus, for the Ghanaian context, for instance, the Covid-19 Exposure Notifications feature is built to be enabled by the Ghana Covid-19 Tracker app, once the app is downloaded.

    Dubawa spoke to the Regional Director of National Information Technology Agency (NITA), Richard Okyere-Fosu, who further clarified that this in-built Covid-19 Exposure Notifications feature on phones is totally different from the Ghana Covid-19 Tracker app launched by the Ministry of Communication in April 2020.

    ”This is different for the Covid-19 Tracker app. With our Covid-19 Tracker, you have to download it first,” Mr Okyere-Fosu stated. 

    Conclusion

    The viral message alerting Android and iPhone users of an inserted Covid-19 tracker is partly true. While it is true that a Covid-19 Exposure Notifications feature has been jointly designed by Apple and Google for its mobile phone users, the feature is by itself not a tracker. It is only functional by downloading a corresponding Covid-19 tracking application, as well as enabling Bluetooth on the smartphone. The feature is built to assist government and health authorities with contact tracing by notifying mobile phone users of anyone who was reported to have Covid-19.

  • 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. 

  • Is Ghana among countries with one of the highest numbers of COVID-19 tests in Africa?

    Ghana has one of the highest numbers of tests conducted for COVID-19 on the African continent -President Akufo-Addo 

    An official from WHO Ghana has confirmed Ghana to be among African countries testing in high numbers on the continent. Furthermore, available data for eleven other African countries in comparison with Ghana, also prove this assertion to be true.

    Full text

    Health experts have shown the importance of testing for COVID-19 in order to help isolate or hospitalize and treat infected people, as well as to help identify the prevalence, spread and contagiousness of the virus in the community. 

    It is in this light that in a recent update on measures taken to combat the spread of Coronavirus, President Akufo-Addo stated the government of Ghana’s efforts to reduce the number of cases through tracing, testing and treating. 

    He highlighted that the total number of tests conducted in Ghana as at 13 June 2020, was 254, 331- a number which he stated was one of the highest on the African continent, especially in relation to Ghana’s population of 31 million. 

    Verification

    Dubawa spoke to an official from the WHO office in Ghana who confirmed the claim:

    “Oh yes, Ghana is one of the countries testing high numbers in Africa’’

    News reports here, here, here, reveal that testing rates in Africa are generally low as most African countries were not conducting tests for COVID-19 due to a number of constraints.  

    Yet, for some that were testing, Dubawa found data available on the total tests conducted as at 13 June 2020 for the following twelve African countries, with their corresponding population. 

    This is because, experts here, here, here, here indicate that the population of a country is a factor considered to indicate a country’s testing rate.

    CountryTotal tests conducted as of 13 June 2020 PopulationTests Per 1000 population(test/(population/1000))
    Mauritius142,8891,271,768112.354
    Djibouti40,855 988,00041.351
    South Africa1,087,88759,308,69018.342
    Ghana254,33131,072,9408.184
    Rwanda87,65612,952,2186.767
    Tunisia59,88711,818,6195.067
    Senegal60,28616,743,9274.654
    Uganda125,49145,741,0072.743
    Kenya112,17153,771,2962.086
    Zimbabwe24,01014,862,9241.615
    Ethiopia176,504114,963,5881.535
    Nigeria90,464206,139,5890.438

    Source of country tests without hyperlinks: Our world in data
    Source of country tests with hyperlinks: National sites for each country
    Source of country population: Worldometer

    Based on available data as of 13 June 2020 on the above twelve African countries, the testing rates show that Ghana is among the countries with high total tests conducted in Africa.

    Conclusion

    The President of Ghana’s statement that Ghana’s total tests conducted (254,331) for COVID-19 as at 13 June, 2020 is one of the highest on the African continent is true. 

    Ghana ranks 4th out of 12 African countries with available figures on testing of citizens. An official from the World Health Organisation in Ghana has confirmed that Ghana is among countries in Africa testing high numbers. 

    Moreover, available data from eleven other African countries prove this assertion.

  • Is the claim of a pandemic every 100 years accurate?

    A viral social media photo purports that a pandemic has occurred every 100 years in 1720, 1820, 1920 and 2020.

    Although history records that disease outbreaks have happened during those periods, not all such outbreaks were actually pandemics and not all have occurred exactly in the years indicated. Furthermore, the occurrence of other pandemics within the period indicated demystifies the pattern of a pandemic only every 100 years. There is also no basis to prove such patterned occurrences.

    Full text

    Yet another theory surrounding the coronavirus pandemic is a claim that it is part of a pattern of pandemics every 100 years. A photo of an Instagram post indicates that a theory proposes the occurrence of pandemics every 100 years. The post further exemplifies a 1720 plague, an 1820 cholera outbreak, a 1920 Spanish flu and the 2020 coronavirus pandemic as proof of the theory.

    The photo, which appears to be an extract from a print publication on January 26, 2020, is captioned; “1720 Plague, 1820 Cholera Outbreak, 1920 Spanish Flu, 2020 Chinese Coronavirus- What’s happening?”

    It further reads; “There is a theory that every 100 years a pandemic happens. At first glance, nothing seems strange, but the accuracy with which these events take place is scary.”

    The photo has also been shared on Twitter and Facebook.

    Verification

    All Google Reverse image searches indicate that the photo is only associated with similar claims appearing on different platforms on the Internet. None of the searches shows the original source of the publication.

    However, all the outbreaks listed, and their corresponding years were verified.

    The case of the 1720 plague 

    The 1720 plague, also referred to as The Great Plague of Marseille, can not be considered a pandemic, contrary to what the post states. Both the World Health Organisation and the Centres for Disease Control define a pandemic as a worldwide spread of a disease usually affecting a large number of people. However, the 1720 plague, which lasted from1720 to 1723, occurred in the city of Marseille and did not affect people beyond France. 

    The plague is recorded to have been caused by fleas on plague-infected rodents from a docked ship in Marseille and killed an estimated number of 100,000 people in that city and surrounding provinces. 

    The case of the 1820 Cholera outbreak

    The Cholera outbreak first occurred in India in 1817 and lasted till 1824. The year 1820, therefore, is a period in which the outbreak lasted, not when it first occurred. However, 1820 is when it started becoming a pandemic, as it spread from India to affect and kill people in other parts of the world which makes the claim partly true.

    According to historical accounts, this first Cholera pandemic spread throughout India to modern-day Myanmar and Sri-Lanka in 1817, then in 1820, it spread to Thailand, Indonesia, Sri-Lanka and China. In 1821, it affected Europe, modern-day Turkey, Syria and South Russia. And in 1822, Japan was also affected. 

    The 1817 Cholera pandemic is recorded to be the first Cholera pandemic among seven Cholera pandemics that have occurred. 

    The case of the 1920 Spanish flu

    The claim of the 1920 Spanish flu shows inaccuracies in dates.

    The influenza occurred in 1918 and lasted till 1920. This contradicts the claim stating that the pandemic occurred in 1920; rather, it ended in 1920. The Centre for Disease Control indicates that the flu spread worldwide, thereby becoming a pandemic between 1918 and 1919. The flu spread from Europe, America and parts of Asia to other parts of the world.

    The flu, which was caused by an H1N1 virus is recorded to be the worst pandemic in recent history, affecting about one-third of the world’s population and killing an estimated 50 million people worldwide.

    The case of the 2020 ‘Chinese Coronavirus’

    The novel Coronavirus, Covid-19 was first reported in 2019 in China and was considered a pandemic in 2020 by the WHO, as it spread from China to affect and kill people around the world. 

    No correlation whatsoever

    Not only does the post inaccurately characterise the Plague as a pandemic, as well as show discrepancies in the dating of the occurrence of the Spanish flu, it also ignores other pandemics that have occurred before 1720 and within the 1720 -2020 year period. The occurrence of other pandemics consequently distorts the pattern of the 100-year occurrence of pandemics to show that pandemics have happened over the years in no specific pattern.

    Furthermore, some health experts have stated that although some viruses are seasonal, and some epidemics are also cyclical, the Covid-19, as a new virus, is unpredictable, and there is also no basis to prove that pandemics happen every 100 years.

    Conclusion

    The claim that a pandemic happens every 100 years is only partly true. Although all the outbreaks listed have occurred in history, the claim wrongly characterises the plague as a pandemic and inaccurately dates the Spanish flu pandemic. The claim also neglects other pandemics that have happened within the period indicated, which show that pandemics have happened over the years in non-cyclical order. Some health experts have also stated that there is no basis to prove the occurrence of pandemics every 100 years. 

  • FACT-CHECK: Are Indians throwing their gods away to follow Christ?

    A Facebook post claims Indians are throwing away their gods to follow Christ because the deities cannot save them from Covid-19.

    The video is dated and has nothing to do with Covid-19. It shows a ritual that is undertaken yearly by Hindus in India. 

    Full text

    A section of the Christian community on Facebook is jubilating following a claim on the page Christian Vibes Gh. that Indians are discarding their gods to become Christians.

    “Indians are throwing their gods to their river because they cannot save them from #COVID!( they are now ready to accept the salvation of JESUS CHRIST as Lord and Saviour. Praise be to God,” the Facebook post reads.

    With 4.7K shares on the social media platform, the majority of the 896 comments on the post shows Christians praising Jesus for the “conversion”. A user even provided a list of some of the gods claimed to have been thrown into the river as “Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver, Lord Shiva the destroyer, avatars, Lakshmi and many others”.

    Verification

    The video in question is, first of all, not related to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

    In 2015, this same video was posted on Facebook – evidence that it is not a recent video. India’s first case of the coronavirus was reported by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on 30th January 2020, not in 2015 when the video was posted on Facebook. 

    The post at the time spoke about a yearly celebration all over India where “Lord Ganesh” idols are immersed in water after the festival. 

    Another post on Facebook, shared in September 2015 with the same video, suggests that the incident seen in the video took place at River Krishna.

    Don’t share, Like. It is located on the River Krishna in the Telangana state off NH 44 Mehboobnagar district…” 

    Dubawa found leads in the comments section about the possibility of the video being from a Hindu festival in India. 

    Our search for Hindu festivals that involve the immersion of idols showed the truth about the periodic immersion of icons of the gods in water. A YouTube video posted on September 29th, 2015 supports this claim. According to the text attached to the video, the video showed how civic authorities wrongfully immersed Lord Ganpati idols in a river in Mumbai.

    “A wrong way of Ganapati Visarjan”.

    We found that Ganesh Chaturthi or Vinayaka Chaturthi is a yearly 10-day festival celebrated in India, usually by Hindus in the months of August or September. On the last day of the festival, the immersion of religious icons takes place. According to the history of the festival, immersing idols into the river enables the god to return to its parents Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati.

    A report by reuters.com in 2007 reveals that the immersion of idols into water is a long-standing tradition. Therefore, it is not at all related to the coronavirus pandemic. The report suggests rivers have been choked as a result of this tradition of immersing idols in water bodies, leading to environmental issues. 

    Either way, it is clear that the video has nothing to do with Indians converting to Christianity and discarding their gods because of COVID-19.

    Conclusion

    Indians are not becoming Christians because they believe that their gods cannot save them from the COVID-19 pandemic. The immersion of the statues is part of a festival celebration done by Hindus as a ritual of renewal.

  • How valid are apocalyptic interpretations about 2020?

    It has been five months plus into the year 2020 and the world is riddled with crises, such as locust invasions, protests against racial injustice, and an epidemic, that are unfolding amidst a global crisis.

    The global crisis, Covid-19 pandemic, has affected humans physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Millions of persons have been affected by the virus; minds have been exhausted from undesirable news stories; emotions have been elevated by fear, anger, grief, and uncertainty. And for those who are spiritually conscious, there has been an awakening of some sort.

    Particularly for a section of the Christian community, the awakening has been realized in various forms such as a call to repentance, a call to fasting, and a call to prayer. Although some have examined the source of, the reason for and response to the pandemic, others see the pandemic as a spiritual attack and the method to confront it as also spiritual. 

    It is, therefore, not surprising that members of spiritual sects of the Christian community, who consider themselves as spiritually aware,  view most life occurrences, if not all, with a spiritual lens

    It is in this vein that some people who identify with the Christian community, such as a Ghanaian Facebook user, have further attributed all the different crises that have happened and are happening to be signs of the end of the world. 

    In the Facebook user’s video post, the speaker is heard in an indigenous Ghanaian language, Twi. He narrates some incidents of invasions of locusts, hornets, and blackbirds that happened in different parts of the world and ‘diagnosed’ them to be an indication of God’s judgement on sin, and signs of the end of the world, thereby admonishing people to repent, referencing the Bible in 2 Chronicles 7:12.

    Other Significant Happenings that Shook the World

    Further, there are more highlights of news that have equally compelled a number of people to make apocalyptic claims of the year.

    January started with the news of a potential war outbreak between the USA and Iran, following the assassination of the Iranian General Qassim Suleimani. There was also news of intense wildfires in Australia owing to climate change which consequently killed people and destroyed homes and acres of arable land. Then, basketball icon, Kobe Bryant was reported dead with his daughter and nine other people in a helicopter crash. The month ended with the Brexit announcement, which is the day the UK left the European Union.

    February followed with an invasion of blackbirds in Kentucky in the U.S. The birds are reported to have darkened the sky before sunset, whitened the landscape with their poop while carrying diseases that could kill dogs and make human beings sick.

    In March, the novel coronavirus, Covid-19, intensified and was declared by the WHO as a pandemic, as the virus quickly spread beyond China, affecting and killing people all over the world. This necessitated several world leaders to put restrictions on the movement of citizens through lockdown and travel ban policies, ultimately having implications on world economies.

    In April, some countries in Eastern Africa, namely Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia were reported to have had an invasion of desert locusts. This invasion is reported to be a much more aggressive swarm of locusts since the last upsurge, and is currently destroying crops and threatening livelihoods in the sub-region.

    The month of May had, again, reports of locust invasion, this time, in India. This swarm locust had not invaded the country since the last 30 years and is also reported to be destroying croplands and affecting food supply in India. There were also reports of an invasion of murder hornets in the US, identified to have a negative impact on the environment and public health. 

    Then, there was news of the murder of an African-American man, George Floyd by a white police officer in Minneapolis, on May 25. This has caused ongoing protests across the country, as well as in other parts of the world, in a quest to fight injustice and systemic racism against black people.

    On the first day of June, DR Congo reported a new outbreak of Ebola in the country. The WHO has expressed concern as the outbreak has already claimed four lives in the western part of the country. 

    Pakistan is also reported to be invaded by locusts which are threatening the livelihood of people and food security. 

    For some, it seems to be getting worse by the day with an overwhelming number of unpleasant news. A study conducted by LifeWay Research in Nashville indicates that nine out of 10 pastors see evidence of end times in the current happenings around the world. 

    In view of this, best-selling author, Joel Rosenberg has said that;

    “For too long many pastors have shied away from teaching on birth pains and events leading up to the second coming, but the current pandemic demonstrates the need for solid, non-sensational preaching done in a biblical manner.”

    What does the Bible teach on end times?

    It is worth noting that, for the Christian community, the Bible is upheld as the source of all spiritual truths. Therefore, it is imperative to understand what the Bible teaches concerning signs of the end of the world and how to interpret them. 

    In the Bible, Jesus Christ, the source of the Christian faith, was asked by His disciples to indicate the signs of the world (Matthew 24:3). He mentioned that rumours of war, famines, pestilences and earthquakes in different places, offences, betrayals, hatred for each other, deception, lawlessness are truly some of the occurrences which must come to pass. Yet he encouraged  his followers not to be troubled by them because it is not yet the end. He added that all these are only the beginning of sorrows (Matthew 24:4-13). He revealed that the end will come when the Gospel of the Kingdom has been preached to everyone in every nation (Matthew 24:14).

    Are these crises an indication of God’s judgment and a need to repent?

    Barry Bennet, a Bible teacher and Missionary, shared his views on some of the current happenings, judgment, repentance and the end-time.

    “It is concerning how many Christians want to jump to the ‘day of wrath’ (Romans 2:5) and assume that God is behind a virus. Just because plagues and viruses are predicted in Scripture does not mean they are from God, nor does it mean that we are at the end of human time. Jesus called such things ‘the beginning of sorrows’. The gospel is not about afflicting humanity with judgments and sicknesses. God is not judging regions and nations. He told us to go into all the world and preach the Good News. He is not trying to kill everyone before we get there,” Barret stated

    He further explained that, contrary to what some Christians claim, plagues, viruses and other calamities are not an indication of God’s judgment of the world in order to bring people to repentance. He emphasised that God is good and instead, it is His goodness that leads people to repentance, referencing the Bible in Romans 2:4.

    “The Father is judging no one. The Son came to save the world, not judge it. The Word will judge those who reject Jesus, in the last day, not before. These truths are ignored by many who run to the Old Testament or Job for their understanding of God. In the rush to attribute plagues to God, they hurdle over Jesus and the New Covenant”, as he quoted John 5:22 and John 12:47&48,” he added.

    Furthermore, Barry emphasised that God is reconciling the world to Himself in Christ and not counting the sins of people against them, quoting 2 Corinthians 5:19

    “God has sent His church into all the world to proclaim the Good News of reconciliation. It would make no sense for God to bring destruction to the very people to whom we are sent with the gospel,” he concluded.

    The Gospel of God’s salvation and reconciliation is the very message Jesus stated in Matthew 24:14  would be preached to everyone in the world before the end itself comes.

    What Do You Think?

    Is 2020, for you, the beginning of the end? Do you believe your position is valid despite biblical positions on this matter?   

  • Did India’s Aamir Khan donate 1kg bags of flour containing 15,000 rupees each to poor families?

    Indian actor Aamir Khan announced a donation of 1kg bags of flour hiding 15, 000 rupees each to poor families

    The actor has denied the claim in a post on Twitter.

    Full text

    To help remedy the economic ramifications of the Coronavirus pandemic, a number of celebrities have contributed to society through donations. In Ghana, celebrities including actor and NDC Parliamentary aspirant John Dumelo reached out to the vulnerable in the early stages of the outbreak in the country. Generally, donors have been open with their donations.

    Bollywood actor and Three Idiots Star, Aamir Khan, according to social media users, chose a unique way to do this. 

    A Facebook post claims that the actor announced a donation of 1 kg bag of flour each, which all secretly contained 15,000 rupees, to poor families. The post reads:

    “India actor Aamir Khan announced donation of 1kg bag of flour to each poor family. Many didn’t think it was worth it since 1 kg is almost of no use or maybe good for 1 meal. But those who were in desperate need lined up to collect the 1kg bag of flour. After opening the bag they found 15,000 ruppees in each bag. What an amazing and smart way of donating, only those who were in so much need were the ones who got helped”

    Verification

    Aamir Khan has debunked the claim on his verified Twitter handle. In his tweet, he said;

    “I am not the person putting money in wheat bags. Its either a fake story completely or Robin Hood doesn’t want to reveal himself” 

    The origin of the donation story 

    Dubawa further found the original story about the photo of wheat bags containing money. An Indian Tiktok user first shared the story on 19 April to thank the unknown man who had innovatively donated the said amount. A day after, an Indian news outlet reported on April 20 that a man, whose name was not mentioned, gave 15, 000 rupees hidden in flour to labourers during the lockdown. 

    Given that there are stories of donations of 15,000 rupees in flour bags that preceded the claim in the current post, it is logical to assume that it is not the Bollywood actor, Aamir Khan, who made those donations.

    Conclusion

    The claim that Bollywood actor Aamir Khan has announced a donation of 1kg bags of flour, each secretly containing 15,000 rupees to poor families is false. The actor has stated in a Twitter post that he is not the one behind that donation and that the story is either fake or the person doing it wants to remain anonymous. 

    Although the actor has made other donations, he is not behind the 1 kg bag of flour and 15,000 rupees donations. The name of the person who originally donated the 1kg bag of flour with money remains unknown, if ever there were such donations, given that nobody has confirmed receiving such donations recently..

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