Despite measures put in place by the government to ensure that cases of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) are no longer imported into the country, the Kotoka International Airport (KIA) continues to receive positive cases from travellers arriving in the country and the number keeps rising.
Between April 21 and 24, some 120 positive cases were recorded from arrivals, a situation that has been described as “unprecedented” by the management of Frontier Health Services.
“On April 24, a total of 75 positive cases were recorded, exceeding the previous rate of 45 cases recorded on April 21 on arrival at the airport,” the Managing Director of the company, Dr Kudzo Seneadza, said in a letter addressed to the Managing Director of the Ghana Airport Company Limited (GACL) and copied to the Director-General of the Ghana Health Service (GHS).
Frontier Health Service is partnering the GACL to offer polymerase chain reaction (PCR) COVID-19 tests at the KIA as part of measures by the government to stop the further importation and spread of the disease in the country.
The test run at the KIA for all travellers arriving in Ghana is a FIA-Antigen Qualitative Test (Fluorescent immunoassay), which detects whether there is an acute infection with the virus, and thus the risk of infecting other people the person comes into contact with.
The results of the test are delivered in 12 minutes at a cost of $150 for all other nationals apart from those from within ECOWAS.
The fast-track PCR test at the KIA was instituted on the directive of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo as part of the measures to reopen the KIA after its closure for many months due to the outbreak of the pandemic in Ghana.
Per the directive, all travellers are to provide a negative report of a COVID-19 test undertaken 72 hours before their arrival, as well as undergoing the PCR test at the KIA on arrival.
That, the President emphasised, was to ensure that the infection was not further imported into the country.
However, it seems the rule has been relaxed, thereby triggering a call for the enforcement of more stringent measures on the quality of COVID-19 PCR tests for travellers coming to Ghana from abroad.
The letter to the KIA management, dated April 24, 2021, also called for the need for stakeholders to implement new guidelines to curtail the influx of positive cases into Ghana, since it could have dire consequences on the country’s fight against the pandemic.
It also referenced an earlier one in which the company had expressed worry over the development and called for urgent attention to be given to the issue to avert any challenges that could derail the progress made.
A Fellow of the Ghana Centre for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana), Dr Kwame Sarpong-Asiedu, commenting on the new development, told the Daily Graphic that the situation ought to be confronted in earnest.
According to him, risk minimisation was key to ensuring that the country decreased the likelihood of any new strains being recorded in other countries entering the country to further community spread.
He maintained that the life cycle of the COVID-19 virus was such that within the first two to five days, an infected person could test negative for both the PCR and the antigen tests if they had low viral loads, since they would still be within the latent period.
“What this means is that if we have picked up many positive cases in one day, it is more likely some infected persons may have entered the country undetected.
Therefore, we may, as a country, have to think through our monitoring mechanism and perhaps follow up on antigen tests on passengers between 48 and 72 hours after entry into the country,” Dr Sarpong-Asiedu stated.
He further advised the need for officials to sequence the strains of the cases being recorded at the airport to understand if they were from countries that were recording strains different from what were being experienced in Ghana.
Attempts to speak with the Director-General of the GHS were unsuccessful.
However, the Presidential Adviser on Health, Dr Anthony Nsiah-Asare, told the Daily Graphic in Accra yesterday that he was yet to see the said letter, and that the government had not changed the directive on the national mandatory quarantine programme on all passengers detected to have tested positive on arrival.
“What is being done is that when an arriving passenger tests positive, he or she is isolated and made to undergo the mandatory quarantine, after which an antigen test is done to ensure he or she does not go to further community spread,” he stated.
The government, he said, was mindful of the new developments in other countries and had, therefore, been implementing guidelines put in place by the Africa Centre for Disease Control (Africa CDC) as a way of minimising the spread.
He pointed out that the antigen tests being done at the airport were of good quality, and that the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) had been undertaking periodic quality control audits to ensure new strains were not imported into the country.
Dr Nsiah-Asare urged the public to endeavour to adhere to the protocols, particularly at a time a large number of the population had not been vaccinated against the virus.