Coronavirus: Parts of Ghana locked down

President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana
President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana

The government of Ghana has imposed restrictions on movement in some major parts of the country for two weeks effective 1 a.m. March 31.

Addressing the nation Friday evening, President Nana Akufo-Addo said stricter measures were needed to help curb the spread of COVID-19.

“Prevailing circumstances mean stricter measures need to be put in place to stop the spread of the virus in-country in Accra, Tema, Kasoa and Kumasi which have been identified by the Ghana Health Service as the “hotspots” of the infections,” he said.

“In doing this, we cannot afford to copy blindly and do all the things some other well-developed countries are doing. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to this pandemic. We have a unique situation in our country, and we must take it into account in dealing with the disease, whilst meeting all the six (6) key WHO guidelines on the most effective ways of combating the pandemic,” he said.

The president’s decision is backed by the new Imposition of Restrictions Act, 2020 (Act 1012) which was passed by Parliament last week despite opposition from the main opposition political party, the National Democratic Congress. The bill gives legal backings to the president’s directives to deal with the spread of COVID-19 in the country.

“Effective 1 am Monday 30th March, some 48 hours from now, I have imposed, pursuant to the powers granted the President of the Republic, under the Imposition of Restrictions Act, 2020 (Act 1012), restrictions on the movement of persons in the Greater Accra Metropolitan Area (GAMA, which includes Awutu Senya East) and the Greater Kumasi Metropolitan Area and contiguous districts, for a period of two weeks, subject to review,” he said.

Essential service providers are exempted from the lockdown. These include members of the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary, journalists, members of the security service assigned lawful duties, producers, distributors and marketers of food and beverages and fuel station staff.

President Akufo-Addo also announced a COVID-19 Fund to receive contributions and donations to assist the poor and vulnerable. He said he is donating his April, May and June salaries to the fund as seed capital.

“I am announcing tonight the establishment of a COVID-19 Fund, to be managed by an independent board of trustees, and chaired by former Chief Justice, Sophia Akuffo, to receive contributions and donations from the public to assist in the welfare of the needy and the vulnerable. I have directed the Controller and Accountant General to pay my next three months’ salary, that is April, May and June, into this Fund,” he said.

The country as of March 27 has recorded 137 cases of Covid-19. The majority of cases, 78, are travellers who have been mandatorily quarantined and tested following a directive by the president last week. A total of four deaths and two recoveries have also been recorded.

Calls for a Lock Down

Calls for a lockdown of the country, especially the epicentre of the disease, Accra and Kumasi, have been deafening following an exponential increase in the number of confirmed cases on Tuesday, March 24. The number of confirmed cases jumped from 27 to 53.

The Ghana Health Service (GHS) at the time indicated the increase was as a result of tests performed on travellers who had been mandatorily quarantined following a directive by the President.

“The sudden spike in case incidence is as a result of the mandatory quarantine and compulsory testing for all travellers entering Ghana, as directed by the president” information on the GHS Covid-19 dedicated website read.

The Ghana Medical Association (GMA) lent its voice to the calls on Wednesday noting that a restriction on movement is in the country’s best interest.

“The Lockdown though not a comfortable decision for leadership and citizens alike is a proven option backed by science and along with the other measures will ultimately be in our best interest,” the GMA said in a press statement.

The Minister of Information, Kojo Nkrumah, had, in response to the calls said the government was considering all available options.

“All options are on the table. Government continues to receive advice which is subjected to analysis by experts. The decision to lockdown is not one that is taken lightly or because we’ve seen other persons doing it. Experts continue to provide advice to decision-makers,” he said at a press briefing on Tuesday.

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