Minority leader in Parliament, Haruna Iddrisu, has called for clarity on plans the government has put in place to deal with the spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic in Ghana.
Confirmed coronavirus cases in Ghana currently stand at 19 .
“To date, the Executive has shared no such a plan with Parliament and, regrettably, does not as yet appear to have one,” Mr, Idrissu noted in a letter dated March 20 and addressed to the Speaker of Parliament, Prof. Mike Oquaye.
He cautioned that “the moment in which Ghana finds itself calls for a proactive plan that goes beyond occasional lists of reactionary measures.”
“For Parliament to move forward on a bipartisan basis it will be necessary to debate a comprehensive, multi-sectoral, national response plan… We will need to review the underlying epidemiological and statistical analyses that inform the proposed interventions, and the same applies to the strategic plan for executing those interventions,” the letter said.
Mr. Iddrisu also said the Minority was committed to a bipartisan approach to dealing with the virus.
“In this matter of our national response to the COVID-19 pandemic, our desire is for Parliament to speak with one voice. We urge the rapid development of the necessary consultative protocols to facilitate this,” the letter said.
The Minority Leader suggested “equitable safety nets for the disabled and the elderly, unemployed persons and daily wage workers, and all other persons whose financial security may be jeopardized by the necessary social distancing measures.”
He also recommended “cost-of-living interventions like the provision of rent subsidies or freezes and deferrals of tax payments.”
In light of reports of hoarding and price hikes globally, he also suggested: “retail market interventions to suppress hoarding, price speculation, and other opportunistic behaviours, including price-fixing and rationing of food and basic supplies if necessary.”
Since the letter was written, Parliament had passed the Imposition of Restrictions Bill which allows the President to declare public restrictions in times fo emergencies.
Mr. Iddrisu described it as unnecessary and said a “single draconian measure of this kind is limited in its utility and myopic in its constitutional considerations.” Find below further recommendations from the Minority leader
The full letter can be viewed here
Our caucus has had extensive discussions of these matters internally, and we have sought the counsel of a nonpartisan, multisectoral and multigenerational team of experts from the many fields that will be required to implement a national action plan. Their technical expertise informs the Minority's views on the nature and needs of a national response to the COVID-19 threat. It is our view, consequently, that any national response plan must be consistent with the known epidemiology of the virus and the resulting disease. It must be rooted in the best available medical science, considerate of our nation's political economy, and contextualized for the culture of our society. Without in any way seeking to preempt Executive Privilege in this matter we wish to propose, through your Office, the following priorities for consideration:
The national plan must prioritize and cost responses over a realistic analytical horizon that reflects the epidemiology of the disease and the projected therapeutic timelines. The best available information suggests that this pandemic will only truly end with the discovery of a vaccine or a cure, and the present estimates of either product range from 12 to 18 months. The underlying strategy must be costed with this timeframe in mind and must be accompanied by a detailed rationale for the specific appropriations. It must also be clear on any and all additional powers that Government may need that are not enshrined in Act 851. Our caucus is committed to approving the justified legislation, borrowing and spending within that temporal and constitutional framework.
- The national plan must address the requisite behavioral and medical interventions needed to contain the spread of the virus, and to mitigate its consequences for affected persons. This must necessarily encompass the following:
- an aggressive public education campaign on preventive behaviors that is centered on hand hygiene that details proper handwashing, avoidance of face touching, and the use of appropriate commercial or home-made hand sanitizers;
- a multilingual, contextually competent awareness campaign of the signs, symptoms and severity of a COVID-19 infection that communicates preparedness over panic;
- a nationwide procurement strategy for the urgently needed medical equipment and supplies to support the clinical case management of symptomatic individuals – including logistics for testing, triage and intensive care – that is appropriately tied to local industrial capacity;
- an emergency staffing and training plan for healthcare workers to boost their availability and preparedness around the country, and a set of guidelines for clinical admission and treatment protocols (including task shifting and deprioritization of elective care) that enhances flexibility of care delivery in the healthcare system;
- a revised infection detection plan that allows for rapid identification of potential cases at all points of entry, as well as tracking and tracing of community transmission events;
- an immediate plan for increasing the availability and capacity of isolation and quarantine centers, including a plan for operationalizing dormant capacity at specialized facilities such as the University of Ghana Medical Center and the Bank of Ghana Hospital.
The national response plan must provide comprehensive and equitable safety nets for the disabled and the elderly, unemployed persons and daily wage workers, and all other persons whose financial security may be jeopardized by the necessary social distancing measures. The current rhetoric from the Executive, which recommends such alternatives as ordering food from restaurants, is overly focused on the lifestyle of the wealthy and well-connected. It must expand its scope to consider the economic realities and living standards for many millions of our compatriots who do not share in that privilege, including such “pro-poor” measures as:
- cost-of-living interventions like the provision of rent subsidies or freezes, and deferrals of tax payments;
- retail market interventions to suppress hoarding, price speculation, and other opportunistic behaviors, including price-fixing and rationing of food and basic supplies if necessary.
The national response plan must address the broad range of predictable economic impacts on small-, medium- and large-scale enterprises who may be exposed to disruptive supply and demand shocks. The strategy should offer incentives to those businesses that provide essential goods and services such as the manufacture and supply of food, pharmaceuticals and communications. And it must consider monetary and fiscal impacts, including temporary relief measures for enterprises such as credit guarantees and temporary loan forgiveness.
- The national response plan must include a mass mobilisation programme that embraces the core competencies of democratic, traditional, religious and civic structures across all levels of our national life. This will necessarily involve engaging and empowering District Assemblies, Unit Committees, traditional and religious leaders, civil society organizations, and other appropriate entities.
- The national response plan must include a detailed communication strategy with both digital and traditional components. It must be focused on the efficient transmission of critical information, absolute transparency about the evolving situation, and responding to the proliferation of false information and fake cures. Ultimately, such a plan must strengthen solidarity, social responsibility and social engagement even in the face of social distancing.