A group calling itself the Northern Development Forum (NDF) has among other things, asked government to conduct a mandatory test for the novel coronavirus on all persons who returned from Accra to the regions up north last minute to the partial lockdown.
President Nana Akufo-Addo announced the commencement of a partial lockdown of Accra and Kumasi, the epicentres of the disease from Monday, March 31 in order to check the spread of the virus.
The order also affected Tema and Kasoa.
Before and after this announcement, some people who hailed from the northern part of the country fled Accra to their hometowns, a large number of them being head porters also known as Kayayei.
Those who were able to make it before Monday did so successfully, while some who tried to do so after Monday failed and were sent back to Accra.
Naming particular communities in which the head porters who made it could reside in the north, the NDF, in a statement said the government must trace these people to test them for the virus as they might have imported it into the regions.
“We have noted that in anticipation of the lockdown of Accra and Kumasi, the mass exodus of female head-porters called Kayayei, would occur. We know the dominant communities which these Kayayei returned. These include Tolon, Savelugu, Nasia, Wale Wale and Nyankpala. In this regard, we are calling for comprehensive testing of these targeted communities that have received mass influx of Kayayei. This, we believe, will also improve the Government's surveillance tracking for cases,” the statement read.
The group also lamented the porous nature of the borders and urged the government to strengthen security there as many people sneak into the regions in the north from the neighbouring countries.
The group in the statement stated that, “All the five Regions in Northern Ghana have rather porous borders and the officials are few and ill-equipped with resources. We, therefore, appeal for increased border vigilance, including the deployment of the military to augment the efforts of the Immigration Officials and the provision of adequate logistics.”
A day before the partial lockdown of Accra, Kasoa, Tema and Kumasi began, a number of people, mostly Kayayei left the capital to Bimbilla in the Nanumba North Municipality of the Northern region.
On Sunday, March 29, 2020, about six VIP buses carrying over 200 passengers were seen entering Bimbilla.
A COVID-19 taskforce formed by the Nanumba North Municipality directed all the buses to the Bimbilla Senior High School where their temperatures were taken and sensitized on COVID-19 preventive measures.
Even before then, operators of the Neoplan station in Accra said they had recorded a spike in travel from Accra to Northern Region in the wake of the novel coronavirus detection in Ghana.
According to them, a significant number of travellers have been Kayayei.
Read the full statement below:
NDF STATEMENT ON COVID-19 AND KAYAYEI
The Northern Development Forum (NDF) would like to commend President Akufo-Addo for his decisive and timely response to the global COVID-19 pandemic in Ghana. We see that the measures adopted are very necessary to safeguard citizens from this deadly attack.
COVID-19 has taken the world by storm. In military parlance, it is like the enemy launching a tactical attack that completely paralyzed the entire military response arsenal of the defence side of the belligerent forces. Comparatively, the COVID-19 attack or invasion of Africa and for that matter, Ghana, is just beginning.
The NDF has observed thus far, that this pandemic has, once again, exposed the fragility and vulnerability of Ghanaians and in particular Northern Ghana. The most horrendous reports of human suffering as a result of the lockdown has been about the movement of KAYAYEI back home to their communities in the Northern part of the country. Even children were involved in this situation of misery. While we appreciate Government's effort to mitigate the plight of the KAYAYEI, we wish to make the following observations and proposals:
1. All the five Regions in Northern Ghana have rather porous borders and the officials are few and ill-equipped with resources. We, therefore, appeal for increased border vigilance, including the deployment of the military to augment the efforts of the Immigration Officials and the provision of adequate logistics.
2. It is quite worrying that there is no single approved centre for COVID-19 testing in the whole of Northern Ghana. We are aware of the two Research Centers in Navrongo and Kintampo and other Regional hospitals and wonder if these could not easily be upgraded to undertake testing for COVID-19. This would ease the national burden currently centred in Accra and Kumasi research centres and would enhance our effectiveness and efficiency in the national fight against the virus.
3. We call for fair and equitable distribution of the Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) to Northern Ghana and other deprived Regions.
4. We have observed that socio-cultural practices and behaviours have a great potential to nullify the national effort at fighting the COVID-19. We call for a targeted support mechanism for Religious and Traditional Leaders in Northern Ghana to engage in systematic efforts at Social Behavior Change Communication (SBCC) on COVID-19 and public health in general to stem the devastating impact of the pandemic.
5. We have noted that in anticipation of the lockdown of Accra and Kumasi, the mass exodus of female head-porters called KAYAYEI, would occur. We know the dominant communities which these KAYAYEI returned. These include Tolon, Savelugu, Nasia, Wale Wale and Nyankpala. In this regard, we are calling for comprehensive testing of these targeted communities that have received mass influx of KAYAYEI. This, we believe, will also improve the Government's surveillance tracking for cases.
6. The NDF also note with particular appreciation the efforts that were made to restrain the mass movement of some of the KAYAYEI back to Northern Ghana. We know that this is a very difficult decision to make in balancing individual fundamental rights with the promotion of the common good; especially that the fastest way of spreading this deadly disease is through human movement and contact.
7. We cannot talk about vulnerabilities without remembering some of the communities in Northern Ghana that were devastated by rainstorms, recently. We commiserate with the victims for the losses and harm that they have experienced.
We assure the President and Government of Ghana of our fullest cooperation and support in the common battle to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic.
Major Albert Don Chebe (Rtd)