It is barely four months now since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China.
An outbreak which is now commonly known as COVID-19 is spreading so fast like wild fire and causing havoc to the economies of many countries.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared COVID-19 as a global pandemic and has therefore called upon all governments to adopt the necessary protocols to stop its further spread.
China reported its first case of the virus in December, 2019, which has since spread to many countries across the globe.
As at 31st March, about 203 countries have so far been affected by COVID-19 with the most hit being Italy, Spain, Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom, France and some African countries including Ghana.
As at today April 1, the number of reported cases of COVID-19 globally according to the WHO is 860,181 with 42,341 deaths and over 178,359 recoveries.
The pandemic has brought world economies to almost a standstill, to the extent that many analysts have argued that the impact of the pandemic on the global economy may even exceed the financial crises of 2007/2008.
Indeed, many sectors of the world have been hard hit by the global pandemic.
The aviation sectors through the hotel and tourism, trade, supply chain, education, religion and foreign investment have been hit.
According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA) for example, global airlines stand to lose over $113 billion in sales if the coronavirus continues to spread.
Similarly, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has predicted that COVID-19 will lower global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to 2.4 per cent.
Ghana recorded its first case of COVID-19 on March 13, 2020, and the number continues to increase steadily.
As at April 1, 2020 the country has reported 195 cases, 5 deaths and 37 recoveries.
It is important to note that most of these reported cases are imported with minimal community spread.
Although the number of cases reported in the country is not comparable to those reported in other countries such as Spain and Italy, there is the fear that the number may spread if care is not taken.
The close social system and inadequate medical infrastructure in the country may pose serious constraint to the halt of the possible spread of the virus.
Like many other countries across the world, a number of measures or interventions have been announced by the government of Ghana to prevent further spread and community spread of the virus.
These measures include closure of our air and land borders, increased sensitization on frequent hand washing with soap under running water, the use alcohol based sanitizers and the practice of social distancing.
The President has also directed the closure of schools from the basic to the tertiary for four weeks.
This was followed by the announcement of lockdown of major towns such as Accra, Tema and Kumasi.
Indeed, desperate situations call for desperate measures!
Thankfully, these measures which are meant to prevent further spread of the coronavirus seem to be working, as the cases being reported are not as alarming as expected.
In addition to the COVID-19 Fund announced by the President, the government through the Minister of Finance announced a stimulus package of COVID-19 Alleviation Plan to mitigate the economic impact of the virus on the economy.
It is important to mention at this point that one group of people who are likely to be seriously affected by COVID-19 are the vulnerable.
The vulnerable in our society include the poor, the physically and mentally challenged, women and street children.
There are over 2.8 million of such people in the country who either do not work or largely depend on income from daily sales of their businesses to survive.
The lockdown means that they will find it difficult to feed themselves over the period.
Also, small businesses such as hairdressers, barbering salons, transportation, food vendors just to mention a few that thrive on social interaction are being affected.
To the extent that some of these vulnerable attempted to travel outside the lockdown areas, for fear of not being able to feed themselves during the period of the lockdown.
For example, on March 31, 2020, about 76 head porters, popularly called Kayayoe, were arrested by the COVID-19 Security Team upon a tip off.
They were attempting to be transported to Walewale of the West Mamprusi District in the North East Region.
It is this and many other cases that the president and some other Ghanaians were concerned about when calls came for lockdown.
Indeed, the vulnerable in the lockdown areas are being affected by COVID-19 and are struggling to feed and take care of themselves.
This has once again raised concern about the resilience of the vulnerable in the mist of the recent outbreak of COVID-19.
As part of efforts to cushion the vulnerable against the impact of COVID-19, a number of individuals and groups of individuals including churches in the country have donated food items and sanitizers to keep these vulnerable safe.
The announcement by the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Protection to provide daily food and water as well as stipends to Kayayoes and physically challenged in the lockdown areas to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on them is a welcomed news and commendable.
It should be noted however that these are only short term interventions that will cushion the vulnerable against the virus for today.
A critical question that I want to ask is what happens after COVID-19 has gone?
The Way Forward!
The outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic should awaken us as researchers and policy makers to focus on building long term resilience of the vulnerable.
I therefore wish to give a clarion call to policymakers to consider designing and implementing a more sustainable measure to build the long term resilience of the vulnerable against future outbreaks.
Government and insurance companies should consider implementing group micro-insurance policies to take care of the vulnerable in the event of future outbreaks.
There is also the need to invest in the vulnerable to make them self-reliant in the event of an outbreak.
It is in this regard that I recommend that part of the proceeds of the COVID-19 Trust Fund set up by the President should be used to build the capacity of the vulnerable to make them self-reliant and resilient against any future outbreaks.
We should also build the capacity of the vulnerable to cultivate the habit of savings for any future eventuality.
Mobile telecommunication firms operating mobile money services should consider rolling out insurance based saving products for the vulnerable to make them resilient in times like this.
It is my expectation that lessons will be learnt from COVID-19 pandemic to build long-term resilience of the vulnerable to equip them to withstand any possible future outbreaks.
The Writer is an Applied Economist and a Senior Lecturer at the University of Professional Studies, Accra (UPSA).