By far the most welcome news I have heard recently about Covid-19 was the announcement by the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations to the effect that it will “embark on random inspection of work places”, from 1 July 2020, to ensure “strict compliance with all COVID-19 protocols and guidelines.”
The Ministry said it had noticed, with grave concern, the spread of COVID 19 infections at workplaces, despite the measures taken by the Government to curtail Covid's spread.
The Ministry and its “social partners” (employers and organized labour) had therefore worked out “A Ten-point Communique” that employers and workers, in general, will be expected to implement, in order to “continue to observe the necessary protocols and guidelines [that can] keep workers safe.”
The Ministry said that with effect from l July 2020, it will embark on “a nationwide random inspection of offices, shops and factories.” As part of the measures, the Ministry would expect the Management of each concern to commit itself to carry out specified responsibilities that would “reduce the risk of COVID-19” at any particular workplace.
Management would also be expected to undertake to implement a “response plan” that would indicate its preparedness for COVID-19 prevention at the workplace.
As part of the programme, regular consultation would be carried out between occupational health services, local public health authorities and other partners, “to promote and develop information materials and other technical advice to prevent [the] risk of exposure” to Covid-19. A workplace system would be evolved to provide reliable information on emerging situations of COVID-19, in workplaces. And there would also be a “Monitoring and Evaluation mechanism” devoted to the prevention of the disease.
Other areas to be focused upon would include: a risk assessment of potential interaction between workers and non-workers at the workplace; the fumigation of workplaces; the training of Management and workers on the correct use, maintenance and disposal of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs); the provision of evidence of communication between management, workers and workers’ representatives; evidence of physical distancing during meetings; and evidence of the existence of “an isolation room for persons who develop COVID-19 symptoms at the workplace, while awaiting transfer to an appropriate health facility.”
Now, these are well-thought-out measures which should have been implemented since February-March 2020, when the outbreak of COVID first occurred. But it's better late than never, isn't it?
One point that needs to be made is this: given the lax situation that exists in our public services, the above measures will exist only on paper, unless a serious attempt is made by the entire Government machinery to implement it. There are too many sagacious plans in dusty official files in Ghana that have never been fully implemented.
Given the deadly nature of Covid-19, I hope that each work-place will take it upon itself to elect a “Covid-19” committee, which would bring pressure on the management to implement its part of the plan.
Such committees should, in fact, take it upon themselves to monitor the monitors! In other words, they should liaise, as workers, with the workers both in the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations and elsewhere, to obtain information on whether actual, organic monitoring, as enunciated in the 10-point Communique, is taking place or not! If they discover that the Communique was only drawn up for public relations purposes, they should alert the public to the chicanery. I mean, how many lives may we have saved if the Tema Pioneer Fish Processing Factory disaster had come to public notice earlier?
The President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, no doubt had the recalcitrance of some members of our citizenry in mind when he revealed, in his 13th address to the nation on Covid-19 of 28 June 2020, that:
QUOTE: “Unfortunately, we still have some persons in the country who are not taking the dangers associated with this disease seriously.” Such people, he said, do not (for instance) seek medical help as soon as they have symptoms that suggest an infection of the virus. But fear of “stigmatisation or embarrassment” should not occur in respect of being diagnosed with COVID-19.” So, when anyone begins to experience symptoms such as fever, persistent cough, bodily pains, loss of taste and smell, and difficulty in breathing, that person should seek immediate medical attention at the nearest health facility.
The President assured the nation that “Most patients, who are critically ill and need intensive care, do, indeed, survive the virus, if they seek medical help promptly. For example, out of fifty-three (53) patients admitted into intensive care units (ICU) at the Ga East Municipal Hospital and the University of Ghana Medical Centre, since the pandemic struck, forty-four (44), i.e. eighty three percent (83%), have fully recovered, and have been discharged. This is, in part, due to the immense dedication and hard work being exhibited by our healthcare workers, who continue to care for those affected by the virus, and for the sick in general.”
The President assured the health workers that the “incentive package” he announced on April 2020 “to motivate and express appreciation to all health workers for the months of April, May and June”, would be extended by another three (3) months. “This means that all health workers will pay no income taxes for the next three months, i.e. July, August and September.
“Again, all frontline health workers, as defined by the Ministry of Health, will continue to receive the additional allowance of fifty percent (50%) of their basic salary per month, i.e. for July, August and September, ” the President said.
The President reiterated his charge to all residents of Ghana, “in our daily routines,” to adhere to “the enhanced social distancing and hygiene protocols [that] will not only save our lives, but also prevent our healthcare infrastructure from being over-burdened.
“Let us wash our hands with soap under running water, use alcohol-based sanitizers, maintain the protocols on social distancing, avoid person to person contact, eat our local foods that boost our immune systems, and, yes, wear masks at all times when we leave our homes. These are the weapons of our battle.
“We must keep our guard up at all times, and see to it that sooner, rather than later, COVID-19 becomes nothing but a blip on our forward march to sustained development, progress and prosperity.”
No person who truly has the interests of Ghana at heart, can refuse to say “Amen” to that. Indeed, our salvation remains in our own hands.
Some of the countries which, in the past, we could have looked up to, by way of learning the correct way to avoid the worst ravages of the pestilence, are themselves lying almost prone in front of it devastating power. Such a situation should teach us to be focused and united in our own approach to the pandemic. Certainly, we should throw out any personal and departmental rivalries and animosities and make sure that nothing jeopardises our victory over the dreaded disease.