Ghana: Active COVID-19 cases drop sharply after adopting new WHO guidelines as experts express caution

Tracking COVID-19 in Ghana

Ghana has recorded over a 140 percent drop in active COVID-19 cases in the country after adopting new WHO guidelines on discharge of COVID-19 patients last Saturday.

The World Health Organization updated the ‘Criteria for releasing COVID-19 patients from isolation’ last May. The discharge criterion in summary states that:

  • For symptomatic patients: 10 days after symptom onset, plus at least 3 additional days without symptoms (including without fever and without respiratory symptoms)
  • For asymptomatic cases: 10 days after positive test for SARS-CoV-2

This new guidelines allows for patients to be discharged after the requisite duration without necessarily undergoing the rigorous testing guideline WHO issued in January 2020. The January guideline placed premium on the test- based strategy for discontinuing transmission-based precautions thus a patient was discharged after obtaining 2 negative PCR tests at least 24 hours apart.

Director-General of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr Patrick Aboagye who announced Ghana’s revised policy noted that recent data and new clinical management guide by the WHO on the modification of discharge criteria informed Ghana’s decision.

Following the announcement, Ghana’s active COVID-19 case count has dropped to 3596 active cases as at June 22nd from a high of 8585 active cases on June 19th.

Source: Worldometer.info/coronavirus
Source: Worldometer.info/coronavirus

Meanwhile, Nana Kofo Quakyi, Research Fellow and Adjunct Asst. Prof at New York University has described the GHS decision to lump together data on recoveries and discharges as “misleading.”

“Cases still being managed at home are still active cases because discharge is not the same as recovery. Parroting the intentional conflation of the two concepts abets a misleading narrative about the actual case load in the medical and public health systems. This is not just semantics,” Mr. Quakyi wrote in a blogpost.

He further insisted that the “discharge criteria is not meant to replace the original one laid out by the WHO” and called on the Ghana Health Service to “separate the discharges from the recoveries” on the GHS COVID19 Dashboard.

Virologist Peter Kojo Quarshie also warned that, “some of those discharges will not be cured, but the economic cost of keeping them in the hospital is not justified. It just needs not to be called recovery but discharge.”

The Ghana Health Service has so far failed to address the concerns raised by several health experts. A glance of the local dashboard as at July, 23rd still shows the conflation of recoveries and discharges.

GHS CVID-19 Dashboard (23rd June, 2020)
GHS COVID-19 Dashboard (23rd June, 2020)

Report by Gideon Sarpong | iWatch Africa

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Gideon Sarpong

Gideon Sarpong is a media practitioner with over six years experience in data, investigative and policy journalism. Gideon is currently the Policy and News Director at iWatch Africa. His major role includes developing news strategy for correspondents across Ghana, as well as designing project and policy focus for the organisation. He is an author with over eight publications; a fellow of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), Thomson Reuters Foundation (Wealth of Nations Program), Commonwealth Youth Program (DYLP) and Bloomberg Data for Health Program. Gideon holds a degree in economics from the University of Cape Coast and PgD in Policy Journalism and Media Studies from the University of Zambia. He is a firm believer in the use of data journalism and technology for development and is committed to promoting transparency and accountability in Africa.

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