THE MESSAGE IS THE CURE
There is nothing like coronavirus to concentrate the mind on matters at hand; the Ghana media has shown a responsibility beyond the call of duty. Today is the second day of the lockdown, and as with most situations, familiarity can breed contempt so I thought the media would get a bit bored and begin to veer off the subject of Covid 19 and all its bad ways. But no. The Ghana media and journalists have stayed focused. With more than 500 radio and TV outlets, about 20 newspapers and more online news than you care to count, Ghana has no shortage of avenues to carry the message.
A big handclap for the purveyors of the message – in this case the President and his officials, but especially the tirelessly erudite Minister of Information, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah. I have not seen him in my dreams yet but that is the only screen he has missed. He is everywhere, sometimes at the same time! So, the crafters of the message have delivered it and the carriers have done their duty. The critical question is this: has the message arrived home?
Communication Process 101: communication is incomplete without a feedback from the receiver of the message; so, with all the frenetic messaging from the government, how do we know that the mass audience of the nation has received it well? It is unfortunate that we do not have any regular, reliable national polling process in the country by which we could establish the data for this question. So, in the interest of research and for the benefit of my readers, I left home this morning in search of answers. It is difficult to tell whether people are washing or even sanitizing their hands frequently, but one thing is obvious; the message of the mask has yet to get home.
I am not sure the mask has been emphasised enough; to some people, it may well be a mere fashion accessory. During Monday’s debate in Parliament, one MP wore his mask on his forehead! Many doctors and experts are warning that the mask could be the most effective defence against the spread of the virus because it stops carriers from passing it on. Now, since we have not tested everyone, we have to assume that everyone is a carrier hence the need for the use of masks by everyone.
I know some people argue that the mask is useless since it does not prevent a person from catching the virus – or so they say. I wanted to find the truth so I reached Professor Lade Wosornu, the eminent retired surgeon and poet for his comment. From his isolation in his living room, he explained that we must FORCEFULLY advocate the use of masks because they stop the virus from spreading. In effect, the venerable Professor of surgery says he is “happy to nail his professional conclusion to the mast of MASKS in the war against the spread of COVID-19″.
Here is the thing; the message on social distancing is going nowhere. We know that our social setups make that very difficult. Think about our markets; think about buying electricity… Can you imagine Ghanaians waiting in a queue six feet apart from the next person?
With social distancing difficult to achieve, we have no choice but emphasise the use of masks. We need a strong message on this to show that masks equal life. That message could be the cure for the pandemic.
Professor Wosornu was keen to emphasise that a mask can be any barrier that plays the role of the mask. Therefore, he said, even if people don’t have a proper mask, they can tie a handkerchief across their faces to cover their mouths and noses.
I believe that if the mask is so important, we must get them in millions and make them part of our dress culture. We should get tailors to make them from any acceptable material. We need them not only for medical personnel but for everyone. It is especially necessary for food vendors, market traders and the like. Most importantly, all leaders and role models must make it a point to appear in masks. Let us make the thing sexy and appealing in order to save lives.
Nana Kwasi Gyan-Apenteng
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