COVID-19 LOCKDOWN: experts speak on possibilities and measures to put in place
Adnan Adams Mohammed
Pressure is being mounted on the government by several keys groupings including; Ghana Medical Association, Minority in Parliament, traders among others, to consider a total or partial lockdown of the country amidst the growing cases of COVID-19 in the country.
A research fellow and doctoral candidate at the New York University College of Global Public Health has, however, advised that before a lockdown is implemented, the government needs to consider the socio-economic conditions of its citizens.
Ghana already has announced over 150 confirmed cases within a period of two weeks of recording the first two confirmed cases. 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. But the substantial number of the cases have been reported in the general population. As of 24 March, a total of 1,030 persons are under mandatory quarantine; samples from 863 of them have been tested, the Ghana Health Service explained.
“Before a lockdown is implemented you need to consider the socio-economic conditions that exist in the country. A lockdown without any social intervention policy to cushion the people is basically a starvation order” Kofi Quakyi stated.
Mr Quakyi also advised authorities to intensify contact-tracing which involves recruitment, training and cooperation with communication companies.
“Each person that’s not identified early could risk infecting many others if they’ve got the disease. We really should be thinking about the people who got into Ghana before we started mandatory quarantining, who might not have shown symptoms” he cautioned.
Meanwhile, some experts say it is imperative that government must allow a lockdown that is defined and matches our context.
An International Law and Governance analyst, Kwame Mfodwo said a lockdown is inevitable but the country cannot afford the situation considering the living standards of its citizens.
He also proposed that it can be maintained for more than three days or a week.
Also, the President for the Institute of Liberty and Policy Innovation (ILAPI), Mr Peter Bismark in a statement released, last week, stated that Ghana requires GH¢15 billion for 28 days’ total lockdown to sustain the economy and protect the lives of its citizens.
He said those who are calling for a total lockdown should note, that was not the best option for Ghana because should that happen, a the stimulus package of over GH¢15 billion would be needed for a 28-day lockdown.
“If it happens like that, it means that registered businesses and firms would have to shut down operations with employees going home, and go with salaries,” he said.
The president of ILAPI said the government would still have to ensure the continuation of salaries of public sector employment and provision of basic needs and other services, including electricity, essential services, water and food.
He said the informal economy would suffer from the lockdown because of loss of daily sales and income. The sector, he said, may not directly benefit from the emergency financial response but would reduce individual income and purchasing power.
According to him, since Ghana’s economy thrives on small and medium-scale enterprises, the government must spend more to support local businesses with some tax rebates, financial reliefs, refunds and social assistance.
“As the market activities continue to drop and many Ghanaians are calling for a total lockdown, forward-looking fiscal and monetary measures are necessary to save the economy from impacts of the Coronavirus pandemic,” he stated
Mr Bismark said the exponential growth of the number of cases are already causing a progressive lockdown.
“With this development, businesses would close and physical activities would cease. Because of inexplicable barriers that the coronavirus crisis brings, people may be prevented from doing useful things for income and wealth creation.”
Consequently, The Vice-President of ILAPI, Mr Evans Badu Boampong has proposed some measures that the government need to put in place before considering a lockdown.
Among the measures are that the government must meet all the relevant business associations, including the manufacturing firms, to deliberate consciously on production capacity and job loss.
Insurance companies could not remain the same as our insurance premiums during lockdowns so the government again must meet the Insurance Commission as early as possible to make a readily available partial payment to their clients to support them in times of the panic.
“They should also provide exclusive premiums to their clients to support government health interventions,” Mr. Boampong said.
Salaries of workers should not be subjected to full tax deductions, suggesting that at least 50% tax refund should be given workers while Ghana Water Company should consider opening taps for those who are even owing bills to ensure there is a free flow of water to aid hand washing.
The Ministry of Food and Agriculture, through the Buffer Food Stock, Mr. Boampong said, should develop an outline system to supply food to underprivileged homes and also support companies in Ghana (both local and foreign) to change their structure of production to produce some essential goods to avoid shortages during the lockdown,” he stated.
Mr Boampong further suggested that, Ghana Grid Company Limited, Volta River Authority and Electricity Company of Ghana must ensure there was a continuous supply of power since most institutions would be working from home and that tariffs should be reduced.
With regards to the people who don’t even have a place to get locked inside, as Ghana’s housing deficit stands over 1.5 million, the government must advance plans to shelter some millions of Ghanaians in hotels, motels, and guest houses among others.
“As a policy analysis organisation, we make these proposals based on a careful study of other nations which have implemented lockdowns due to COVID19. And we believe that these measures should suffice, though not completely, in helping manage the situation of a lockdown,” Mr Boampong said.