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[OPINION]: ‘Gary Al-Smith’s Analysis of #COVID-19 Data; Gaps in Information Flow & The Uncritical Ghanaian’

 BY: FRED DUODU | OPINION |

On Tuesday, April 21, 2019 I had seen a post by one of Joy FM’s Senior Sports Journalist, Gary Al-Smith dominating most WhatsApp platforms on my phone and my timeline on Facebook. I initially brushed it off. However, the overwhelming outpour of comments on these platforms I belong to, made me read the post.

After first read, I became terrified. Then I took another read and realised there were some inaccurate information provided as fact; based on which he made his analysis, drew some conclusions and raised some concerns.

In as much as I disagree with his analysis, because it appeared he had inadequate information, I attribute his understanding of the issues with gaps in the information flow from government officials.

I also believe the viral nature of the message and how easily people took his analysis hook, line and sinker exposed how the average Ghanaian receives information, especially from influencers.

 A good number of Ghanaians including the educated class take information wholesale; leaving no room for skepticism, further probing and verification, even when they might be aware of contrary facts.

This is a summary of his understanding of the facts available to him at the time.


  1. That if Noguchi was doing 1000 tests per day and KCCR was doing 200 tests per day, how could the government claim to have tested over 68000 and also claim it was doing better than any African country as far as testing was concerned?
  2. That if the over 68,000 tests done so far represented samples tested and not persons tested, the President was inaccurate to say, Ghana was doing more tests per a million of its population.
  3. These two very important analysis reiterated his preconceived suspicion that “the lockdown lifted was not based on empirical data, but on economic considerations.”

Read Gary’s Full Post Below

Take note, I am not here to discredit Gary. For what it’s worth, he is one of the most progressive journalists I know in the country. He has since the outbreak of this COVID-19 pandemic in the country, being educating his thousands of followers on issues. It is his own way of supporting the agenda to contain COVID-19.

After reading his article I did what most of the people very close to me know I love doing; dispassionate analysis of his position.

Gary Al-Smith, (C) Facebook

On the capacity of the two main testing centres, I immediately had a flashback of a TV3 report I had watched on Monday, April 20, 2020. The report which was on their Facebook page was done by Portia Gabor on the testing Capacity of Noguchi Memorial Institute of Medical Research. The report had stated that the facility was doing between 2000 and 4000 tests daily.

Watch The TV 3 News Report Below

In the case of the Kumasi Centre for Collaborative Research (KCCR) I had heard last week that they were now doing 800 tests per day. So a simple mathematics using an average of the two centers showed that the over 68000 tests so far, was very feasible. Since Noguchi gave a range, let’s assume they are doing 2500 cases a day. Multiply that by 21 days and you will realize that they would have done over 50,000 while using 800 per day by KCCR will show they would have done over 16, 000.

The second part of Gary’s argument which was about duplication of the record of tests frightened me the most. However, I decided to look at the figures and break it down based on the categorization by the GHS. If you have been following the updates from government, you will know that the 99 who have recovered may have been tested thrice at the minimum; thus first positive tests and two successive negative tests.

Then there was the 1030 persons on mandatory quarantine after the borders were closed. They were tested at least twice within the 14 days quarantine period to isolate those who were positive. So 1030 multiplied by 2 and 99 multiplied by 3 will give a sum of something slightly above 3000. Let us even assume those who have been tested more than once amount to 5000 tests. Subtract 5000 from 68000 tests and you realised that those tested once, are still more than 60000. (I may be wrong)

Interestingly, I was not too wrong, as my layman’s view was somewhat confirmed by Dr. Benard Oko-Boye on Accra based Asempa FM when he clarified issues regarding his comments on Citi TV the previous day. Gary also clarified on the same show that his post was not intended to be malicious, but was based on how he understood the issues per the information he had at the time.

This elementary mathematics does not dispute the fact that Ghana is currently the only African country to have conducted more tests per a million of its population. Nonetheless, South Africa still leads Africa when it comes to cumulative tests.

The analysis however disputes Gary’s conclusion that the lifting of the lockdown was done based on economic considerations only; without any reliance on science and data.

At this point, my fear and worry based on Gary’s post was deflated. I then shared it with some of the WhatsApp groups where I had initially interrogated Gary’s post.

A good number of them also saw that the argument from my point of view was also worth considering and it also calmed them.

I was challenged on one of our professional WhatsApp platforms,  to put out my analysis for others to also make their own judgment. I had initially declined, because I felt my analysis was based on my layman understanding which may also not be as reliable as Gary’s. However, King Nobert Akpablie (Formerly of Citi Fm) managed to persuade me to also make my voice heard.

As I have earlier indicated, the post is not to discredit Gary, but to establish that there are gaps in the information relayed from government to the masses.

If an influencer and early adopter like Gary; with all the opportunity to read and verify information could be inadequately informed, then there was a gap which requires bridging ASAP.

The Ministry of Information and the Ghana Health Service are losing the populace including influencers like Gary who could be playing a very important role of breaking down the complex health issues to thousands of people that the government may be losing.

Fred Duodu (C)Skef fotos

The viral nature of Gary’s post attests to his influence in the flow of information to the masses, but more critically, it also exposes the true nature of the average Ghanaian when it comes to information consumption. Thus, so far as it comes from an influencer, majority of Ghanaians refuse to make their own analysis and conclusions. They conveniently believe and spread.

If government is going to win the fight against COVID-19, it needs the support of all and sundry. However, without clear, unambiguous and comprehensive information to early adopters and influencers, it will lose the masses whose action and/or inaction can contain the spread or escalate it.

One more thing; Gary’s query about the real number of persons tested is still valid. I hope the authorities will provide adequate answers in this regard and ensure the slightest update on issues is clear and timely shared; to prevent the reliance on outdated and inadequate information like the figures used by Gary for his analysis on testing capacity.

On timely updates, I believe if the masses are clearly and consistency updated on the capacity of the two centres, influencers like Gary will make a much better analysis based on current information.

If the public must support the fight, then they must be let in on whatever there’s to know otherwise, they will assume government has a hidden agenda. We’re all stakeholders in this COVID-19 fight.

Source: Fred Duodu (k.duodu@yahoo.com)

 

NB: The writer is a Journalist. All views expressed in this article are personal and do not represent those of any organization(s).

 

 

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1 comment

SellallyLawson Official April 23, 2020 at 1:24 am

I love both arguments. Great stuff for the avid reader…. May God keep us safe as we go about what is humanly possible to keep us safe from the virus.

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