Efforts to stop the spread of Covid-19 in Obuasi is facing fierce resistance from residents who downplay its existence and prevalence in the area.
The mining town currently accounts for 98 or almost half of 189 Covid-19 cases recorded in the Ashanti Region.
Local authorities say such misconception and complacency have led to the breakdown in safety protocols, as lives are exposed to danger.
Out of 43, 611 cumulative specimen collected in all districts in Ashanti as of Thursday, May 7, 2020, Obuasi accounts for the highest number of over 4,000.
The town is the first in the region to have begun contact tracing, after recording the first confirmed Covid-19 case.
With support from the mining giant, AngloGold Ashanti, Obuasi has a strong Covid-19 taskforce whose Control and Command Center provides 24-hour support service.
The same, however, cannot be said of the attitude of the public, especially market women.
They exhibit their doubt about existence of Coronavirus by flouting, with impunity, every social distance protocol, exposing the town’s 220,000 population to risk.
“Residents, especially, traders still doubt the prevalence of the Covid-19 pandemic. Though we have heard about it, none of us here has witnessed anybody contract the disease. People don’t believe it; otherwise, they would adhere to social distancing,” that’s according to Adansi Akyaa, a trader at Obuasi Central Market.
To a fish seller, Comfort Mensah, there is no need for authorities to heed to demands of residents to see infected persons.
“Some are disputing the existence of Covid-19 here in Obuasi. They want to believe only when they see infected persons. It will dangerously breed discrimination. Imagine me, a fish seller being one of infected.”
The situation has compelled local authorities to close to business two major markets which share about 3,000 traders between them.
Obuasi Municipal Chief Executive, Elijah Adansi-Bonah, tells JoyNews people openly demand to see Covid-19 patients to be convinced.
“The people of Obuasi think that if indeed we have 48 [positive cases], how come only one person has died?
You see that is what has made them complacent. They don’t really believe the existence of the virus ; I am telling you”.
He describes such negative attitude as worrying amid the national effort to overcome the pandemic.
“They think that if indeed the virus is here, where are the people? They have been asking us. Where are the people ? Show us where they live.
But we cannot do that because of stigma; stigmatization. It is something we will never do.
But we want the people to know that the virus is real and we should not play with it,” he added.
Local government and health authorities are, nonetheless, intensifying public sensitization.
Mr Adansi-Bonah warns he may be compelled to recommend a lockdown of Obuasi if disregard for aid down protocols continue.
“We will send the report to our bosses that this is the situation now. Until we implement what we’ve put together now, I will not suggest it but if the people are not ready to go by what we are putting out, then I would also be compelled to suggest to authorities that Obuasi should be locked down because we cannot defy orders and say we are safe”.