August 8, 2020
Clickongh

Voter registration exercise could lead to mass COVID-19 deaths – Doctors warn EC

A group of health care professionals have called on the Electoral Commission (EC) to reconsider the June 30 voter registration exercise which they believe could lead to mass COVID-19 infections and likely deaths in the country.

The group, made up of over 100 medical doctors, nurses, laboratory professionals and other allied health care personnel, say the already strained health care facilities would not be able to handle the cases that would emerge as a result of the mass exercise.

Rather, the group wants the EC to consider a process that will minimize mass gathering and promote the principles of social distancing as well as the protocols established by the World Health Organization (WHO).

A letter dated Wednesday, June 24  and addressed to the Chairperson of the EC, Mrs Jean Mensah, the group said instead of holding a mass registration exercise, the EC should rather conduct a special registration for persons who have recently attained voting age since that would pose lower risks.

“In our view, given that the existing biometric register has been used successfully to conduct significant number of elections including two presidential and parliamentary elections, two District Assembly elections since 2012 and a referendum by your outfit in 2018 to create six new regions, we find it plausible that same register will suffice for our impending elections. Those who have recently attained voting age can be accommodated in a special registration exercise with much lower risks due to the fewer numbers,” the letter said.

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Below is the full letter addressed to the EC

THE ELECTORAL COMMISSION OF GHANA RIDGE -ACCRA
GHANA.

June 24, 2020

ATTN: MRS. JEAN MENSAH
CHAIRPERSON, THE ELECTORAL COMMISSION OF GHANA
Dear Madam,

AN OPEN LETTER TO GHANA’S ELECTORAL COMMISSION: MASS VOTER REGISTRATION WILL RESULT IN MASS DEATHS FROM COVID-19

We the undersigned healthcare practitioners mainly made up of medical doctors, nurses, laboratory professionals and other allied health personnel having keenly followed developments in our country in relation to COVID-19 together with our experiences as frontline actors, wish to provide some insights to guide your decision to conduct a mass voter registration exercise in the coming weeks.

Our intent for writing this letter is not to contest your legal mandate to compile a voters’ register, but to share with your team the potential health dangers this proposed exercise may foist on the nation especially considering the recent wave of COVID-19 infections and deaths that continue to stretch the capacities of health care facilities; we are steadily reaching breaking point.

As healthcare providers, we are confronted on a daily basis with increasing counts of infected patients including the critically-ill, increasing number of deaths that show no signs of abating anytime soon and a general feeling of exasperation among the populace all against a background of our pre-existing mandate to provide care to all Ghanaians, whether infected with COVID-19 or not. We have never expected our work as health professionals to be easy, but neither do we expect it to be suicidal. We wish to advise that caution is exercised in undertaking any activity that has the potential to accelerate the spread of COVID-19.

We believe the impending mass registration exercise falls in this category and has the potential to compromise the health and wellbeing of the population leading to unwanted pain, trauma, and possibly deaths as the past few days have shown. Our decision to write this letter is informed in no small measure by the following:

1. Learning from previous mass registrations exercises in the country, we are worried that a mass voters’ registration exercise will promote the gathering of people in a manner that will inadvertently undermine the principles of social distancing and therefore facilitate the community spread of the disease. Voter registration is very important for our nation’s democracy and governance, but in our considered view, nothing can be prioritized over the sanctity of human life.

The president was right when he said “What we do not know is how to bring people back to life”. Indeed, we cannot bring back the dead. It is this basic truth that we seek to re-echo, in lieu of preserving the lives of those governed as a first priority, and then all other things may follow. This is the essence of governance. You would agree that the voters’ registration exercise falls squarely in that category of “ALL OTHER THINGS”.

2. We must collectively work to ensure all lives in Ghana are firmly secured and protected against the pandemic, and this requires us to resist the temptation to carry out any activities that can potentially cost us the very lives we work hard to protect and preserve. We are deeply worried that a mass registration exercise at this time and the resultant public gatherings that will ensue will lead to a relegation of the principles of social distancing, a key weapon in mitigating this pandemic. From a public health perspective, these gatherings will only serve as a channel for the spread of the disease through person to person contact as well as contact with contaminated surfaces. The anticipated clustering of polling stations will only serve to increase the likelihood of person to person contact triggering a new wave of infections. This is inevitable. We should remember that in a factory in Tema, one “super- spreader” was the source of up to 500 new infections. There are many super-spreaders who may turn up on registration day.

3. Available records show that our country, Ghana is so far one of the worst affected cases of COVID-19. For instance, in the West-African sub-region, Ghana is only second to Nigeria in terms of absolute number of cumulative cases and mortality rate. As at the time of writing this letter, the Ghana Health Service records indicate a total case count of 14,568 with 95 deaths. In addition, our country is presently recording an average of over 200 COVID-19 cases daily with frightening consistency since the early part of June. The sudden rise of over 200% in the number of our citizens who have died from COVID-19 is indeed a worrying concern. These undoubtedly illustrate the depth of the quagmire our health care infrastructure is saddled with. It is our fervent hope that good science and healthy public policy will find a fruitful intersection as far as dealing with the pandemic is concerned. It is clear that our country is heading towards a major public health catastrophe with fatal ramifications for our nation if we don’t chart a different course.

4. As frontline health workers, we have not been spared by this pandemic. We have lost worthy members of the fraternity including Professor Plange-Rhule, Dr. Harry Boateng, Nurse Sophia Addo, and many beloved Ghanaians to this disease. All loss of life is painful, but when it hits close to home it is a totally different experience. We share in the pain of all families which have lost their loved ones, particularly whilst performing their professional duties. We presently carry a heavy burden of guilt and fear. Guilt because such deaths leave us with a feeling that we did not do enough to protect our own colleagues; and fear because we worry that we may also succumb to this contagion in the performance of our duties.

5. Currently, 25 doctors in Ashanti Region are infected by COVID-19 according to reports by the Ghana Medical Association (GMA) and over 100 nurses are infected in the same region. This situation closely mirrors what is going on in other regions.

Our commitment to saving the lives of our fellow citizens should not be taken to mean we are happy and willing to die in the course of our professional roles. It is against this background that we express deep worry that an activity such as the mass registration you seek to carry out will compromise the protocols spelt out to reduce transmission and rather promote community spread of the dreaded COVID-19 ultimately making the masses victims of this disease. Our lives as healthcare workers matter too, and our prayer is for you to re-consider your decision to conduct a new voters’ registration exercise.

6. Our regular health infrastructure suffered from many vulnerabilities even before the advent of COVID-19, and the “new normal” for us is becoming unbearable. The treatment and isolation centres with their hard-working staff are particularly taking a heavy toll. Last week, the Ashanti Regional Director of Health indicated the shortage of beds in treatment and isolation centers.

There have been reports of some of our colleague contact-tracers abandoning their jobs on account of lack of funds to pay them. Compounding all of this is the limited number of ventilators and the limited number of qualified staff to man this equipment round the clock. For a country with only about 200 ventilators serving a population of 30 million, the worst mistake would be to treat this pandemic with soft gloves. We must learn from the experience of Burundi where political considerations were placed above the spread of COVID-19, and the resultant effect has been the demise of that country’s president and other major political personalities. Lessons from Brazil should be very instructive about the effects of disregarding social distancing protocols.

7. We fail to see the point in massing up at registration centers to register only to contract a potentially fatal disease. We worry for the EC staff and so should you too. In spite of best efforts to secure them PPEs, their absolute safety cannot be guaranteed, much less potential registrants who will not be in PPEs.

There are also people (diagnosed and un-diagnosed) with many health vulnerabilities, making their situation even riskier. It is worth emphasizing that dead men and women cannot vote, and so we invite you and your team to join us in exercising a strong moral judgment in favor of respecting the lives of fellow citizens and ourselves against the pandemic. Someday when the conditions are favorable for this exercise, we will join you as professionals to carry out a successful exercise.

In conclusion, we wish to strongly encourage you and your office to consider a process that will minimize mass gathering and promote the principles of social distancing as well as the protocols established by the World Health Organization (WHO).

In our view, given that the existing biometric register has been used successfully to conduct significant number of elections including two presidential and parliamentary elections, two District Assembly elections since 2012 and a referendum by your outfit in 2018 to create six new regions, we find it plausible that same register will suffice for our impending elections. Those who have recently attained voting age can be accommodated in a special registration exercise with much lower risks due to the fewer numbers. Respectfully, this should stand to reason. It is our fervent prayer that this supplication to you and your office will be given favorable consideration in the interest of our dear country. Please consider this letter as an appeal to save us and other Ghanaians from COVID-19 and its wide-ranging ripple effects.

For further clarification or media interest in the issues raised in this letter, please feel free to contact any of the following Dr. Pius Essandoh – 0246141460; Dr. Vishnu N.L Abayateye – 0243059985; and Dr. Gameli Aheto – 0200199755.
Thank you for the attention, and in anticipation of a reversal of your decision to compile a new voters’ register.
Yours sincerely,
__Signed__
1. Dr. Joojo Nyamekye-Baidoo
2. Dr. Vishnu N.L Abayateye
3. Dr. Melvin Agbogbatey
4. Dr. Elikplim Ahiable
5. Dr. Kekeli Adanu
6. Dr. Sefakor Adinyira
7. Dr. Henry Selase Akpaloo
8. Dr. Claude Enyam Woanyah
9. Dr. Woedem Tettey
10. Dr. Priscilla Orleans Kpodoh
11. Dr. Justicia Kyeremeh
12. Dr. Solomon Odemey
13. Dr. Leslie Issa Adam-Zakariah
14. Dr. Christian Debrah
15. Dr. Afriyie Ansah
16. Dr. Emmanuel Sogah
17. Dr. Gameli Aheto
18. Dr. Dennis Ansah
19. Dr. Clarence Mante
20. Dr. Barbara Fenyi
21. Dr. Samuel Sule Saa
22. Dr. Charles Adiepena
23. Dr. Jacqueline Anita Sowah
24. Dr. Pius Essandoh
25. Dr. Mordecai Owusu
26. Dr. Daniel Alifoe
27. Dr. Philip Sanjok
28. Dr Sandra Adams Sallar
29. Dr phoebe sarfo
30. Dr Alberta Azas
31. Dr Chidinma Ohanechu
32. Dr Etornam Anyigbah
33. Dr Naa Ayeley Sena Mills Tetteh

34. Dr Ruth Dedei Aryeetey
35. Dr Jemima Alemonai
36. Dr Jonathan Neequaye
37. Dr Sunquist Ankamah
38. Dr Adolph Garfo
39. Dr Naa Martekuor Vanderpuye

40. Dr Mariam Shittu
41. Dr Richmond Okronipa
42. Dr Akosua Nyame-Kusi
43. Dr Christian Frimpong
44. Dr Felicia Akuribire
45. Dr Duke Agbodeka
46. Dr Samuel Horner Brew
47. Dr Tobias Ninnang
48. Dr Sheila Issahaku
49. Dr Eric Tseklu
50. Dr Charles Sosu
51. Dr Enaam Adanu
52. Dr. Franca Darkwa
53. Dr. Rockson Dorkeh
54. Dr. Naa Hammond
55. Dr. Ruth Clottey
56. Dr. Isaac Asirifi-Ofosu
57. Dr. Theodore Wordui
58. DrMaryAnneZuoloAalangdong

59. Dr. Elorm Daketsey
60. Dr. Safianu Alhassan
61. Dr Gideon Poku
62. Dr. Kwame Afriyie
63. Dr. Harrison Hammond
64. Dr. Francis Eshun
65. Dr. Timothy Kopah
66. Dr. Barbara Yebuah
67. Dr. Felix Abeyifah Bowuo
68. Dr. Abdul Samed Sulemana
69. Dr. John Kanyiri Yambah
70. Dr. Etornam K. Grentsi
71. Dr. Reuben Oppong
72. Dr. Ekow Harrison
73. Dr Jonas Afari
74. Dr Boni Moses Tay
75. Dr Efua Yankah

76. Dr. David Gobapen

77. Dr. Michael Zobi

78. Dr. Roma Garner

79. Dr. Rex Bonsu

80. Dr. Afua Nkansa

81. Dr. Samuel Adusei

82. Dr. Anthony Ayambire

83. Dr. Collins Ntiamoah

84. Dr. Nana Wireko

85. Mr. Francis Tetteh

86. Ms Claudia Cobblah
87. Ms Sandra Okullo
88. Mr. Michael Akwetey
89. Mr Ayitey Kenneth
90. Mr. Abdul Majeed Mumuni 91. Mr. Forster Dzasimatu
92. Mr. Anyagre Jonathan
93. Mr. Asumah Yussif Kamagtey 94. Ms. Claire Bangdome
95. Ms. Belko Farila
96. Mr. Shelter Agbeko Bobie
97. Mr. Livingstone Dablu
98. Ms. Enukware Ekua Ofori
99. Mr. Sylvester Nakotey
100. Mr. Michael Dzodzodzi 101. Ms. Patience Gyasi 102. Mr. Leander Agohaah 103. Mr. Emmanuel Asimah 104. Ms. Princella Tebu
105. Ms. Patricia Odooley Odoi
106. Mr. Theophilus Mensah Amfo 107. Ms. Betty Nkansah Osei Mensah 108. Ms. Nadia Abdul Karim
109. Ms. Dina Woode
110. Dr. Abigail Nyarko
111. Dr. Sheba Fiadzormor
112. Ms. Lauretta Elloh-Donkor
113. Mr Kennedy Napare

 

Source: General News

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