The government has assured the Ghana Police Service that it will in the coming days issue directives to its officers on the compulsory wearing of face masks as the country battles the coronavirus pandemic.
President Akufo-Addo made the wearing of face masks mandatory in the wake of a sharp rise in the number of COVID-19 cases in Ghana and has through an Executive Instrument asked the police and law enforcement agencies to lead its enforcement.
Many have questioned the terms and conditions under which the law and its corresponding sanctions will be applied without infringing on individual rights and liberties.
Information Minister, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah says the communication from the police hierarchy will address the confusion that the enforcement plan may have caused.
“Between tonight [Tuesday] and tomorrow morning, the police officers will receive a memo from the Ghana Police Service which spells out how to apply this provision and we expect that they go by this directive. They will also communicate with the general public what that is,” he said on Eyewitness News.
People who fail to wear face masks in public risk a prison sentence of four to 10 years or a fine ranging GHS12,000 to GHS60,000, or both.
Aside from the perceived harshness of the law, concerns have been raised about the definition of a public place and if, for example, a person should wear a mask whilst in his or her car alone.
But Mr. Oppong Nkrumah maintains that the current sanctions for not wearing face masks are in order to protect the ordinary Ghananian from contracting the virus.
“There is an imposition of the Restriction Act which has now moved to the gazetting of an Executive Instrument to make mandatory the wearing of face mask and attach the necessary sanctions to it. The Imposition of the Restriction Act gives room for sanctions. What we need to do is to encourage people to comply with it so we all protect ourselves.”
The new sanctions for not wearing face masks are contained in a new Executive Instrument (E.I. 164).
About the new E.I.
The new E.I. makes it mandatory for people to wear face masks, face shields or any other face covering that covers his or her nose and mouth completely when the person is in public or leaving or returning to his place of abode.
Police are also given authority to make random checks to ensure compliance.
According to paragraph 4(2) of E.I. 164, any person who fails to comply with the mandatory wearing of nose masks shall be punished in accordance with Section 6 of Act 1012.
Per Section 6 of Act 1012, “a person who fails to comply with the restrictions imposed under the Executive Instrument issued under subsection 1 of Section 2 commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of not less than 1,000 penalty units (GHS12,000) and not more than 5,000 penalty units (GHS 60,000) or to a term of imprisonment not less than four years and not more than 10 years or to both.”