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The Coronavirus Diaries: This Too Shall Pass

The Coronavirus Diaries: This Too Shall Pass

Tuesday July 28 2020

Emmanuel Kwame Tettey is a Research Fellow at the Akrofi-Christaller Institute in Ghana and soon to be a PhD student at Edinburgh University.

 


Since the first case was recorded in March, Ghana’s Covid-19 infections have seen a relatively steady rise compared to its peers in the region, with over 30,000 confirmed cases currently. Interestingly, however, over 80% of the currently infected persons have either recovered or been discharged in line with the government protocol.

As the President argued in his last Covid-19 address, with these figures, it looks like “we are steadily on the path towards limiting and containing the virus, and ultimately, defeating it”. Whilst grateful to God for the seemingly strong immune system of the average Ghanaian, at least against the virus, we are not yet out of the woods. The real deal, however, is the socio-economic devastation of the pandemic on everybody and every aspect of the society.

Like me, many people have to be grateful to only have a pay-cut, bearing in mind the numerous young and old who have their livelihood gone due to job and business losses. The negative impact is even aggravated by the fact that we have a very high dependency society. A job loss for one person could mean a partial loss of livelihood for two or three other dependants, in addition to his nuclear family.

A welfare support for people and businesses is now more needed than ever. Unfortunately, the initial three-week lockdown in March exposed the bizarre nature of our existing social welfare system. Whereas the government provided some relief resources, albeit inadequate, the social infrastructure to credibly and effectively deliver such support to those who need it most is virtually non-existent. As usual, the Churches became significant partners in complementing the state’s welfare support both at the national and community level, having to provide food and groceries to thousands of families.

It seems the Churches would have to do more of this as there is not an end in sight yet. Sadly, the Churches face a double jeopardy of having more mouths to feed and also a reduction in income because there have been no regular Sunday worship services for several weeks. Even when Churches were allowed to meet, the state-directed safety measures were so strict that few Churches could resume Church Sunday services even with limited attendance.

In reflecting on this, I ask: how can we sing the Lord’s song during such a pandemic? This may not be exactly the Psalm 137 experience but the idea of singing the Lord’s song is critical here. For Africans, we sing and dance in both troubling and joyful moments. This is because singing inspires hope for a better future and invigorates morale to confront our fears and limitations. Yes, we shall sing because we ought to overcome.

For now, the pandemic has taught our politicians to pay attention to the health care system, step up efforts to formalise the economy, and develop a strong social welfare system. After this Covid experience, the need to be disciplined in investing part of the already meagre resources and also adapt to new ways of ministry cannot be lost on the Churches.

For me, like many individuals, I have been reminded to always live in humility, bearing in mind my human vulnerabilities and also the fact that there is a God, and not a man, who alone has power over everything. We shall wear our face masks and maintain the social distance and yet sing the Lord’s song because this too shall pass. This, I believe!