Two COVID-19 Claims by Carlos Ahenkorah Fact-checked

The Member of Parliament for Tema West constituency, Carlos Ahenkorah, who until July 3, 2020, was also the Deputy Minister for Trade and Industry has made a number of COVID-19-related claims in an interview he granted on Citi FM on Thursday July 2, 2020.

Two major claims he made were that: Persons who are COVID-19 positive but are asymptomatic cannot transfer the virus to others; and that persons who are asked to self-isolate for COVID-19 are allowed to move out.

“Self isolation means that you should stay away. Stay alone let’s say for some time to review your condition…. I always explain myself this way that I am asymptomatic, I do not transfer [the virus].”

“[Being in self-isolation] doesn’t mean you don’t have to step outside,” he said in the interview.

Fact-checkghana.com finds these claims to be false.

Explanation: Carlos Ahenkorah was recently reported to have been admitted at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital receiving treatment for COVID-19.

Subsequent reports also claimed that he had been seen at a voters’ registration center in his constituency earlier in the week despite his status.

Mr. Ahenkorah confirmed in an interview on Asempa FM on July 2, 2020 that he visited a center although he knew he was COVID-19 positive.

In justifying his decision to visit the center despite his status in the Citi FM interview, he indicated that despite being positive, he was asymptomatic and therefore could not transfer the virus to others. He also said self-isolating as a COVID-19 patient did not mean one could not go outside.

On the first claim, which bothers on not able to transmit the virus because he was asymptomatic, a number of research works including one published on the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) website have shown that most of COVID-19 infections are from cases that are undocumented, which indicatively are mainly patients who have mild symptoms and those that are asymptomatic.

Another research report by the American Center for Disease Control (CDC) also noted that it was possible to transmit the COVID-19 virus even when one is asymptomatic.

“Knowing that asymptomatic transmission was a possibility, CDC recommended key interventions including physical distancing (36), use of cloth face coverings in public (37), and universal masking in healthcare facilities (38) to prevent SARS-CoV-2 transmission by asymptomatic and symptomatic persons with SARS-CoV-2 infection,” the report said.

The World Health Organization (WHO) also in its latest advice on the use of masks noted that “some people infected with the COVID-19 virus do not ever develop any symptoms, although they can shed virus which may then be transmitted to others.”

These three pieces of scientific information prove that Mr. Ahenkorah’s claim on not being able to transmit the COVID-19 virus because he was asymptomatic are false.

Mr. Carlos Ahenkora’s claim that he was asymptomatic is doubtful. He admitted in a statement that he was admitted at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital overnight for treatment but denied reports that he was at the intensive care unit (ICU).

However, he further stated in a number of media interviews that he had witnessed the last moments of former Executive Director of the Forestry Commission, Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie (Sir John). He said he shared the ward with Sir John and Peter Mac Manu. Interestingly, Sir John was at the ICU and he died there.

Heath workers close to Korle-Bu say the ICU requires serious protocols to get there and one would not be put there unless their condition needed to ICU treatment.

On the claim that being asked self-isolate does not mean one cannot go out; we referred to the Ghana Health Service’s national policy document on infection prevention which defines isolation as “a process for separating patients with certain communicable diseases (source) from uninfected persons.”

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, people have asked to isolate because they have coronavirus and are not showing symptoms.

People who do not have the right facilities at home are taken to government isolation centers to be observed there. Those with the right conditions such as well-ventilated rooms and are able to stay away from others are asked to self-isolate.

Experts’ advice shared by the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) warns “you must not leave your home if you’re self-isolating.”

Among various prohibitions given to persons self-isolating, it said:

  1. Do not go to work, school or public places – work from home if you can
  2. Do not go on public transport or use taxis
  3. Do not go out to get food and medicine – order it online or by phone, or ask someone to bring it to your home
  4. Do not have visitors in your home, including friends and family – except for people providing essential care
  5. Do not go out to exercise – exercise at home or in your garden, if you have one

The WHO wants people self-isolating to consider physical exercise at home to stay active during the period.

These guidelines clearly do not encourage someone in self-isolation to move out into public spaces as claimed by Carlos Ahenkorah.

The WHO in its guidance for care for COVID-19 patients also emphasized the need for the patient to stay at home until he or she is cleared by a healthcare worker either after testing negative twice or after a period of 14 days without symptoms.

Mr. Ahenkorah’s claims are therefore false.

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Supported by STAR Ghana Foundation with funding from UKAID and the European Union

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