The issue of whether or not there should be a total lockdown in Ghana in view of the novel coronavirus has generated heated debates in all nooks and crannies of the country.
While an appreciable number of citizens have spoken in support of such a proposal, an equally good number of citizens have come out to debunk the claim that such a proposal will inure to the benefit of the entire country.
Undoubtedly, it could be said that with the magnitude of the cases in Ghana so far and also to take a cue from countries like India and Italy, South Africa, Rwanda and Tunisia, a lockdown is simply inevitable. This option has become imperative as no one seems to take the social distancing seriously; workers still take the "trotro" to work, some churches and mosques clandestinely observe congregational prayers, some recreational football players still meet to play and friends still meet to have fun. You see the evidence points to one direction and solution -lockdown.
Whatever option we choose, it will definitely come with dire consequences. It will take its toll on a particular population in the country, especially those who are unemployed, those who are employed but no savings and also those who have the streets as their homes, especially in our densely populated areas.
Nonetheless, considering this from a different point of view, not only will it be misleading but also suicidal to observe a lockdown in the same manner as it has been done elsewhere - Italy, UK, and France without recourse to our social settings and demography as a nation. It is an open secret that our Social setting has been plagued by a number of problems including substandard housing conditions, overcrowding of households in most communities and cities, inadequate and unreliable infrastructure and services. In overcrowded households as we have in Ghana and some parts of Africa, what good will a total lockdown bring to the natives? This will rather compound the situation in such places.
In social settings like the ones we have in Ghana where most people and communities have poorly developed housing delivery systems which lack places of convenience and have to resort to public toilets and the likes; a total lockdown as it has been in other countries will be suicidal and will come with immense social ramifications. The concomitant results will be that those in informal settlements and slums will be severely affected. Self-quarantine in poor and overcrowded places is virtually impossible.
This presupposes that a normative approach by copying hook, line and sinker the exact measures of other countries in their response to the novel Corona virus wouldn't augur well for us as a nation. Moving forward, we will need a satisfactory positive approach. In other words, if we are to look down to a lockdown, we should take into consideration measures that best suit our cultural, demographic and social setting. The fact still remains that this is a global issue and will seriously need local solutions - taking into consideration our demographic and social settings.
If a lock down is anything to go by, then it calls for uncommon sacrifices on the part of the few elites and those in the middle class to augment the efforts of the destitute and vulnerable in our country. Having said this, it is also important to state that the burden should not be left on the shoulders of only government but this is a rare opportunity for charities and churches to practice what we have been preaching since time immemorial.
These are uncommon times and such times definitely call for uncommon sacrifices. Without these factors being taken into consideration, the lockdown will be a step in the right direction but it will be bad news for the neglected poor and the vulnerable in our communities and cities.
The Writer, Elvis Effah is a Service Person at the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Cape Coast.
Department of Sociology and Anthropology,
University of Cape Coast, Ghana.