SCIENCE, EXPERTS, DEBATES, LOCKDOWNS AND COVID-iots.

By Nii B. Andrews.

Our lockdown in Accra ended last week. We were emphatically assured that this was on account of myriad reasons “based on science”.

Now, that is interesting since the conditions in the whole country to date are hardly predicated on any orthodox application of the most basic science.

We can easily see that our terrible sanitation and precarious health system point to an absolute dereliction of the scientific method.

For example, our port city of Tema, with a population of 1m, has fewer equipped and functional ICU beds than guess what – assembly men; and raw sewage is pumped into the sea thus destroying a pristine lagoon system.

SUGAR DADDY: Collin Sekajugo, Photo print, polypropylene and acrylic on canvas, 97 x 65 cm, 2019. See full online exhibition at https://www.sulger-buel-gallery.com/exhibitions/15-this-is-uganda-collin-sekajugo/

The question of ICU beds irks me to no end as they are indispensable for providing optimum care for serious motor vehicle accident cases (especially those with severe head injuries or spinal cord injuries, who are most often aged 20 – 35 years old).

ICU beds are also indispensable for the treatment of strokes, heart attacks, dangerous infections and failing organs.

Hence, the gross misrepresentation and disinformation about the beds by a fluent COVID-iot will forever live in infamy especially as we have to fight desperately in order to maintain the very sparse number that are available.

So where are the experts who should have ensured that this situation did not occur; can we say that they have been awake, alert and fully oriented; have they ensured international best practice, are they even bold enough to call out inaccurate statements and retrogressive actions by public officials?

LES NOCTERIENES: Houston Maludi, 2016. Courtesy of Magnin A gallery.

All over the world, COVID-19 has led to lockdowns, market disturbances, and political tension. In addition, a great mass of unreliable information has flooded our lives; some of it from ruling governments, public institutions and journalists.

The scientific method is based on the transparent, verifiable acquisition of data and its rational interpretation coupled with reproducibility.

There have been problems with COVID -19 testing in many jurisdictions including our own.

What numbers have been tested, who have been tested and when; the methodology and accuracy of the tests have all been questioned through robust debate.

Besides, are we treating our COVID-19 patients in ghana with drugs – at which stage of the illness, which drugs, what doses; or are we running a proper clinical trial from which we can get scientific answers?

Are we doing post mortem examinations on those who unfortunately have died from the disease?

Sadly, in our country, the responses to these important questions are often defensive or worse, acrimonious with chest thumping and the touting of academic credentials – typical ghana stuff which leads nowhere useful; never had and never will.

In Plato’s dialogue Gorgias, Socrates meets the titular character and points out that very often debates turn into abusive shouting matches with little edification of either party. But in progressive societies things have moved on; when shall we in our country?

HEAD OF A GENIUS/ MATTER: George Afedzi-Hughes, mixed media on canvas, 162.5 x 162.5 cm, 1999. Signed and dated lower left. Private Collection. Illustrated African Arts, Spring 2001.[The artist utilizes graffiti, fire hydrants, water closets as a commentary on a wasteful culture. The visual puns defy a singular interpretation. The painting seeks to unveil the contradictions of reality]

Science is based on doubt.

The scientific method is universal and Africa contributed hugely to its inception and development; Imhotep, JKM Quartey, EA Badoe, Maud Dagadu-Kordylas, A. Adeloye, L. Odeku, C. Barnard, F. Konotey-Ahulu and many more.

It is imperative, if we are to beat this pandemic, that all of us must have a basic understanding of how science works – and an acknowledgement that during a crisis like this, admitting doubt, rather than pretending certainty, can be a source of strength.

Are all of us not still learning about the virus and its tricks?

Furthermore, it will help us to understand that for politicians – their Sancho Panzas and Paspatus included; admitting a mistake is seen as a form of weakness. This is the opposite in science, where making mistakes is a cornerstone of knowledge.

Of course, we shall only be courting disaster when our viciously partisan poliTRIKcians start calling the tune for the scientists and experts. If in doubt as to the result, look around you.

To compound the issues even more, the rented press weighs in and we get articles on ghanaian exceptionalism with respect to drone deliveries, herbal cures and weak lines of questioning of public officials on important subjects.

Nothing about this virus seems to add up.

In our part of the world with our experts, shrill debates, COVID-iots and paltry medical equipment, we can only pray that this cup passes us by.

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