April Round-up: Impact of COVID-19 on Ghana’s Economy; Claim on 5G Spreading Coronavirus Fact-Checked

Ghana was not left out in the adverse economic impact of the novel Coronavirus pandemic. Just like many other countries globally, the Government of Ghana imposed restrictions like closing of all land borders and air spaces and partial lockdowns in three regions identified as epi-centres in April, 2020 to prevent the spread of the virus.

Fact-check Ghana in an April 6th, 2020  report highlighted the Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta’s statement read in Parliament on March, 30th 2020 which outlined preliminary analyses from the ministry that suggested there will be significant shortfalls in petroleum receipts; import duties; tax revenues; increased health- related expenditures; and tight financing conditions. The Minister said Gross Domestic Products (GDP) growth will decline from 8% to 2.6%, the hospitality industry will have a decline due to ban on travel, cancellation of flights and closure of borders with hotel occupancy declining from 70% to 30%. On the list were commodity prices with a decline on both crude oil and cocoa prices. Ken Ofori-Atta also hinted a decline in exchange rates due to the slump in import volumes. He however indicated it may have favourable impact on foreign exchange volatility. Whereas reduction in exports from Ghana and investor capital flight could adversely affect the exchange rate volatility.

Apart from this the Fact-check team verified the claim that 5G was the cause of the spread of the coronavirus, conspiracy theories circulating media and social media channels. 5G, or fifth Generation, is the latest wireless mobile phone technology. It was first widely deployed in 2019, and is expected to increase performance in a wide range of new applications and generally improve mobile technology experience. This claim went viral when a renowned Charismatic Preacher and founder of the Believers Love World Church, Pastor Chris Oyakhilome, in a sermon online weighed in with comments about the conspiracies surrounding 5G and its link to Covid-19.

Fact-Check Ghana’s report found this claim to be completely false and a number of credible scientific sources, including the World Health Organization (WHO) confirm there is no evidence 5G causes health problems. The reports also debunked claims that 5G could penetrate human skin. World Health Organization (WHO) affirms that COVID-19 spreads through small droplets released from the nose or mouth of an infected person when they talk, sneeze, cough, spit, or exhale. The virus gets transmitted when the droplets come into contact with the nose, eyes or mouth of another person.

Thirdly, with not a lot of information available on COVID-19 and its treatment or prevention or the approval of any drug proclaimed to treat and cure the virus the Ghanaian drug COA FS  was reported  by several online news portals media as a potential drug meant to cure or treat the condition was completely false. The media reports stated the drug had cured 2 people after 5 days of administration and helped many other infected persons.

The Center of Awareness Global Peace Mission (COA GPM), the manufacturers of the COA FS issued a disclaimer to debunk the claim. At the time Fact-Check Ghana’s report was published, WHO had not approved any drug for the treatment and or cure for Covid-19.

Additionally, a news story published by the dailymailafrica.com, on March 25, 2020 seemed to suggest that the same COA FS had been approved by the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMMR), one of the centres for testing the Coronavirus (Covid-19) disease in Ghana.  This claim again was completely false.

Fact-Check Ghana’s verdict was premised on a report on the official Twitter handle of the Institute (@NMIMR_UG) which had issued a brief statement to debunk the claim. Further checks found said news report was originally published on March 24 2020, by www.myjoyonline.com  with the subject: COA FS could help in fighting coronavirus – Noguchi Institute Director.

In April, Fact- Check Ghana published a report which outlined the contents of The Imposition of Restriction Act, 2020 (Act 1012).  This Act was passed as part of measures to control the spread of the Coronavirus in Ghana. The measures within the Act include restrictions on movement and public gatherings such as conferences, workshops, funerals, festivals, political rallies and church activities. The Act stipulates the specific restrictions, reasons for the imposition, duration, exempted groups, and punishment for violation of the restrictions.

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