We failed to shut out COVID-19 when we could. We may have underestimated it, or we may have been bothered about the international opprobrium other than the implications for our citizens.
Whatever the reason, we have ended up importing a disease or virus that we have no capacity to manage head-on.
As I often say, when a tap is flooding your room, you don’t dry up the room by using a spoon to fetch out the water. Neither do you use a pail. You must first shut the tap. You can then mop-up or fetch out. Even if it is a drop at a time, you will surely finish dealing with the problem.
We failed to shut the tap on COVID-19 by not shutting our borders early. The COVID-tap is now running among the citizenry through community spread. Just as in the analogy of the flooding tap, we need to shut the COVID tap now.
This means just one thing, lock Ghana down now! Whether in regions considered epicentres or nationwide, Ghana must be locked down now. Every day we fail to act escalates our situation, especially when we know we do not have adequate health infrastructure nor resources to deal with the consequences. Will people suffer for it? Yes, but millions more will suffer more permanently if we do not lockdown now. It is war! We must clearly define our strategy and choose our casualties. A 100 now or a million later?
The true character and measure of leaders are not established in happy moments but in challenging moments when difficult decisions are made to steer the larger population to better times. This is time for leadership, not an electoral syllogism.
Dear Mr. President, please lock Ghana down now before it locks us out! Ghana is its people and not just a geographic location.
Dealing with the lockdown
Key challenges with a lockdown in Ghana include:
a) Dealing with the social impact on citizens who are economically marginalized, like Kayaye, whose meagre earnings are made daily; how will they and the homeless feed and survive?
b) The doctors, nurses, security services, supply chain operatives and others who are part of the essential services of the state required to combat Covid-19, also depend on support service operators like food vendors, trotro and taxi drivers, fuel stations and the like. How will such support services be sustained in a LOCKDOWN?
These are difficult challenges but scalable. The following and improved versions of this may suffice.
1. Use our Secondary Schools and University Residential facilities
The secondary schools and university facilities may be used as social shelters to house the socially deprived and homeless. With centralized locations established, the Government will be better placed to implement support interventions like food and water supplies.
2. Involve the Churches and Mosques
These religious bodies are places of love and these times are big moments to show that love. We should have our church buildings temporarily converted into social shelters to augment the school residences if inadequate. The religious bodies should be rallied to gather support in kind from their membership to feed and fund the persons in defined social shelters and quarantine centres. If we can find $100mn for a cathedral that God never lives in, then we should find support to sustain the needy in these difficult times.
3. Centralize Accommodation and Service to Essential Officers
Isolate all required essential officers and service providers in centralized locations like hotels and university student residences. This will better the Government’s capacity to facilitate support logistics for their operations.
4. Prioritize and lead by example
Citizens expect Government to set its priorities right; not chasing the luxury of a ‘new’ voters register over saving the lives of would-be voters. Cut budget provisions for such expenditure and allocate funding to the COVID-19 war with increased transparency in its spending. When citizens see honest commitment, the benevolence and humanity of Ghanaians and corporates will flow with much ease. It is time to rally the people to save Mother Ghana.
5. Appeal to Corporates
The PAYE taxes paid by corporates over the period of the lockdown should be recognized as corporate social responsibility and the period be not considered a part of employee leave. It is time for all to shed some gains to save all.
#Lockdownnow – partial or whole
The lockdown ideally ought to be absolute but if personnel and resources are inadequate to enforce it, it must at a minimum be fully deployed in urban centres and their related peri-urban areas.
The whole of Greater Accra and Ashanti Regions must be locked down plus all capital cities and major commercial towns like Obuasi and Hohoe.
As is often said, in the abundance of time, there is no time. And when there is no time, action must BE ROLLING!
Ghana is its people and needs its people to be healthy and safe to thrive. We need that boldness and swiftness in leadership shown in the shutdown of our schools now.
Senyo K. Hosi
Finance and Economic Policy Analyst