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26.03.2020 Feature Article

Throwing The Baby Out With The Bathwater: Against A Lockdown

Throwing The Baby Out With The Bathwater: Against A Lockdown
LISTEN MAR 26, 2020

When the narrative of the novel coronavirus was first reported in the news, it appeared as one of the mere infections the world has seen in years past. After the report of the number of death recorded, it became alarming and world leaders began to put measures in place to prevent it from entering their countries, or perhaps minimizing its impact in their country.

China, the birthplace for the virus, was reported to have put up a massive health center in 10 days to host infected persons for treatment, amongst other precautionary measures.

When the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Coronavirus as a pandemic on 11th March 2020, most leaders of the world begun to take strict and reactive measures to prevent the virus in their country or its possible spread. Amongst these measures included advocating for self-quarantine and social-distancing, giving public education on the virus, outlining safety tips against the spread of the virus, advocating for mass testing of the possible infection of the virus, close down of the major entry points into the country such as ports, borders, and airports, and instituting a complete or partial lockdown in order to contain the spread of the virus.

Though these measures proved very effective in combating the Covid-19 in China, Europe, America and other parts of Africa, the complete enforcement of these measures could mean a great depression for most African countries especially in the West African sub-region. This article will discuss the difficulty of implementing a lockdown of any nature in Ghana, and why it will only mean a death sentence to some families.

“I am because we are, and because we are, I am” is a generalized phenomenon held strongly by Ghanaians to establish the fact of our individual dependencies. This means that in a society where there is high economic and age dependency ratio it is difficult to enforce a restriction that inhibits people from carrying out their daily economic activities such as selling and buying in the market, working as laborers at the building site, attending to the reception desk at the offices, gathering, and reporting of news stories, working as factory hands and machine-operators at the manufacturing industries, limitation on interregional importation of goods, amongst others.

The obvious results of such an incident mean a downgrading of our economic status both as individuals and a nation. This, therefore, means that a lockdown will prevent people from engaging others who could provide a somewhat economic means of survival to them. The thought of decreased productivity and economic downsides in a country is what prompted the president of the United States of America, Donald Trump to explicate why “America will soon be open for business” when he subsequently and recently tweeted that “WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF”. This quotation is worth thinking about for Ghana as we consider a lockdown in our scheme of emergency options.

In furtherance of this position, the enforcement of a lockdown could mean a great social depression in Ghana. The obvious nature of our topography suggests that the majority of Ghanaians do not have the social fortitude to withstand a lockdown, whether partial lockdown or complete. To continue this line of thought, let just understand that the meaning of a lockdown according to the Macmillan dictionary which also shares a similar meaning with the English dictionary “is to make people stay in a locked indoor space during an emergency in order to keep them safe”.

The idea of safety is well noted. However, how do we confine people to their rooms or compound when a great number of the citizens do not have access to the portal and safe drinking water in their houses, when a great number of the citizens do not have access to electricity, toilet facilities for the house, amongst others? Looking at the state of the economy, how do we confine a family of eight to their rooms to depend on foodstuffs that could barely last a week?

The issue of locking down a family of eight in a room is a major problem, and this family of eight having to depend on limited foodstuffs is another headache. This and many questions bother the minds of many Ghanaians as the thought of a lockdown lies on the table of options for consideration as a measure to stay the spread of Covid-19. We need not throw the baby away with the bathing water, just as we need not invite great depression in our quest to tackle Covid-19.

At this point, I will commend the president of the Republic of Ghana for putting in place “reactive” measures to limit the spread of the Coronavirus. The Ministry of Information, the Ministry of Health, the clergy, and all other agencies and individuals who have contributed individually and in groups to find a headway for Ghana in the Covid-19 battle are highly acknowledged.

However, the suspense the Covid-19 situation in Ghana is causing could have been prevented if proactive measures were taken when the Covid-19 case was reported earlier in 2019. Indeed, the statement of the Director-General of the World Health Organization, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is cogent when he said: “We are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity and by the alarming levels of inaction”. The stress here is “Alarming levels of inaction”. This is because we as Ghanaians always wait till we are affected by an issue before we respond. This is unpardonable!

The increased level of globalization in the world today constantly reminds us that no country is an island. Although there are geographical Islands, in the economic sphere they do not exist and this is because the interdependencies created by the world today shows that what affects one nation could easily transfer to other nations, and if for nothing, the EBOLA case scenario and its quick spread amongst bordering nations should have served as perfect advice for Ghana. It is important to always find the loophole in order to suggest a solution, hence, no blame game is intended by this proposition.

Moving forward, it is strongly suggested that in the scheme of plans to contain the spread of Covid-19, a lockdown option should be cleared off the table of consideration, unless that option comes with an attachment of a daily stipend for all Ghanaians, irrespective, and this stipend must be in kind as when in cash it would mean another issue in Ghana.

What then needs to be done is to intensify public education, an action which according to the statement of the Director-General of the WHO on the 11th March, is being poorly implemented. This is because the information that is predominantly circulated is that people should wash their hands regularly or use hand sanitizers. As Myles Monroe of blessed memory will say “When the purpose is not known, abuse is inevitable”, so does it apply in our Ghanaian context.

The option of contact tracing should be intensified. Encouragement of public testing should be an option as health care practitioners will be deployed to every community to conduct house to house or family to family, shop to shop, mall to mall, market to market testing, amongst others. This will go a long way to help detect Covid-19 at an early stage so as to begin treatment before complication sets in.

When these and many better alternatives are taken seriously and implemented well, Covid-19 in Ghana will last “a few days less”. We must pursue Covid-19 at all possible best means, and this needs a collaborative effort between citizens and government. Let's all comply with the safety tips as has been outlined by government, gracious individuals and private agencies and organizations. Ghana will and must win in the end.

God bless our homeland Ghana and make our nation great and strong even at these troubling times.

Michael Ofori
Michael Ofori, © 2020

The author has 8 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: MichaelOfori

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