Claim: Chinese medical aid to Ghana contaminated with coronavirus
Researched by Rabiu Alhassan
Disinformation around the coronavirus has come in different forms and types.
Videos, text messages and voice notes spreading falsities and well-worn hoaxes are being widely circulated in Ghana, like in many other countries around the world.
GhanaFact has been alerted to several claims on Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram about a specific claim that Chinese medical aid received in Ghana has been contaminated with the coronavirus.
“As long as they [Ghanaian authorities] allowed materials from china which contains COVID 19 the number of the deadly virus will keep rising,” a Facebook user alleged without providing any evidence to back the claim.
On WhatsApp, we received two video clips and two male voice notes, all alleging Chinese medical aid received in Ghana has been contaminated with the coronavirus.
With 869,000 followers on Instagram, Ghanaian actor Prince David Osei using his verified account also joined in on the speculation, saying “these people [China] can never be trusted.”
We have since spoken to officials of the Ghana Food and Drugs Authority, Ghana Standards Authority, Ghana Health Service, and the Ministry of Health to verify this claim.
GhanaFact has also reached out to Prince David Osei to clarify or provide evidence for his statement on Instagram.
A closer look at the claim
One of the voice notes seems to be that of a man speaking in an indigenous Ghanaian language-Twi, and he said:
“Fellow Ghanaians good evening. Today is 3rd April and I am seated by my television watching CNN. There is breaking news. Some supplies are being packed and they include nose masks which are used in protecting people from the coronavirus. According to the news the supplies are from China and following some lab tests by the FBI, they have tested positive for coronavirus. The news further claims some of these masks have been sent to Africa…So if you hear this audio send it to your fellow in Ghana. Ghanaians should reject any such nose masks because they have tested positive for coronavirus. So, if you use it, you will get infected.”
This voice note comes with a video of some men wearing dark coloured jackets with the inscription FBI and packing boxes of “3000 series n95” into a waiting cargo truck.
GhanaFact used “Invid video verification” digital tool to verify the authenticity of the video and found it had to do with a seizure of some medical supplies/ protective equipment by the Federal Bureau of Investigation(FBI) from a vendor in the US selling it at inflated prices and not because they had been contaminated with coronavirus.
The March 30 FBI bust, led the authorities to remove close to one million N95 respirator masks, gloves, gowns, and other medical supplies from the hoarder.
“China” can’t be trusted
Actor Prince David Osei in a text to GhanaFact said “sure there’s evidence” when asked to substantiate his post on Instagram.
However, in a subsequent interview he said his comments were not linked to speculations that the Chinese medical aid had been contaminated with coronavirus.
“I didn’t say specifically that maybe something has been contaminated or infected. There was no time I ever said that. I just said they cannot be trusted so the President should check again,” Prince David Osei opined.
Ghana receives Chinese medical aid
Ghana has received three consignments of medical supplies from China including two from the Jack Ma Foundation and one from the Chinese government.
The most recent medical aid received from China is being kept at a military warehouse at Base Ordinance Camp in Accra awaiting laboratory test results from the Food and Drugs Authority to confirm their wholesomeness and efficacy.
The medical supplies include coveralls, CPAP -Continuous Positive Airways Pressure equipment, nose masks, hand gloves and laser thermometers.
According to the FDA, tests conducted on the first two consignments brought into the country proved they had not been contaminated with the coronavirus as is being speculated on social media.
“The first consignment that was sampled, that was from the Jack Ma Foundation, those have been tested and they’ve been released. We couldn’t find any pathogens, neither bacteria nor viruses on them. The second consignment was the one that came on the 6th of April that was donated by the Chinese government. That was sampled directly at the Airport, tested and the results released…The products that were tested were clean,” Head of Laboratory Services Department at the FDA, Eric Karikari Boateng stated in an interview with GhanaFact shortly after sampling products from the third consignment for testing.
According to FDA, test results for the third consignment would be ready by April 24.
“By Wednesday the virology report will be ready, by next week Friday the bacteriology test will be ready, for the dimensions and porosity tests that can be done within a day so by Monday we should have finished with that,” Eric Karikari Boateng said.
The standard protocol for the FDA as required by the Public Health Act, 2012 is for the regulator to test and register medical devices before they are imported into the country.
But according to the FDA, “we are not in normal times and this is a donation, that is why we are here to pick them and test to make sure they are fit for purpose before they are released for use.”
So, why are the medical supplies being kept in a military facility?
“This is not normal but its because we are in a crisis. The military has generously agreed that they will help us with the logistics movement of items…We have our normal one on the Spintex road, which is called the Temporary Medical Stores. These ones here are items that we bring and they either are going to go by air or by road to other parts of Ghana,” an advisor to the Minister of Health and Chairman for the Health Commodity Group for COVID-19, Mathew Yaw Kyeremeh said to GhanaFact.
Meanwhile, the Ghana Standards Authority (GSA) says it has supplied the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) with all available standards to carry out its tests.
“Even before the things started coming in there are instructions that we check everything that comes in to be sure that one, they are not contaminated and two, they are fit for use. We definitely have supplied all the available standards… Through the International Standards Organization we’ve been given the approval that all the international standards should be made freely available in the fight against COVID-19. Not just in Ghana, for the world. So, there is no lack of standards, the standards are there. They are international and they are free,” the Director-General of the Ghana Standard Authority (GSA) Professor Alexander Nii Oto Dodoo noted.
The Ghana Health Service(GHS) has also denied the reports that the imported Chinese medical supplies have been contaminated with COVID-19.
“We have not done any assessment on the items which has indicated any contamination,” the Director of Public Health at the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr Badu Sarkodie stated in an interview with GhanaFact.
The claim that Chinese medical aid received in Ghana has been contaminated with the coronavirus is False.
“They all met the requirements and the test for viruses and pathogens came out negative- that is there were no viruses and bacteria on them,” Head of Laboratory services department at the Ghana Food and Drugs Authority (FDA), Eric Karikari Boateng told GhanaFact after completing the testing of a sample of the third consignment of Chinese medical aid received in Ghana.
According to the FDA, the tests involved checking if the supplies were contaminated with viruses especially the SARS-COV- 2 (the virus that causes the COVID-19), at Ghana’s leading biomedical research institute, Noguchi memorial institute.
Other tests conducted at the FDA, involved checking if the supplies had any pathogens or bacteria, while the length, width and thickness of the devices were checked together with their porosity to ensure that “in case you get exposed to the body fluid of somebody who is sick you don’t get the virus,” Eric Karikari Boateng added.