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08.04.2020 Opinion

Use Physical Distancing In Place Of Social Distancing For Easy Education, Understanding And Enforcement

By David Fianko-Okyere
Use Physical Distancing In Place Of Social Distancing For Easy Education, Understanding And Enforcement
LISTEN APR 8, 2020

It obvious that measures put in place by government of Ghana to prevent the infection of covid-19 from entering into the country or from further spread among her citizens is making some gains compared with the rate of infection in other parts of the world.

The laws, advise and opinions on the prevention Appear to have been duly observed, followed or complied with by Ghanaians and all within the jurisdiction from the time the novel coronaviruses disease was declared a pandemic till today where enforcement of imposition of restriction law with some partial lockdown in Greater Accra and Tema, as well as Greater Kumasi and Obuasi, is being enforced.

that could be the reason for the 214 cases with five deaths has been recorded at the time of putting these piece together on Sunday the 5th od April 2020.

My observation is that several development communication approaches by government and other stakeholders; from policy formulations and implementation, enforcement of the imposition of restrictions law, education and promotion by health officers and the media to deal with the coronaviruses or at least to stop the further spread in Ghana either vertically or horizontally has also been well coordinated.

thankfully the use of fear arousal among citizen as it has been the case in fighting other outbreaks in the past has not been largely adopted by the stakeholders to stop the deadly covid-19 from spreading further, instead of persuasion and role modeling to get Ghanaians and all in her territorial borders and those trying to enter or leave the country at this time for one reason or the other.

That to me has been a realistic and commendable approach to the fight against the pandemic at least from the information and communication angle.

Ghana’s adoption of ‘we are all at risk’ and ‘all hands on deck’ approach to this ‘uninvited health war’ confronting almost all countries is very refreshing coupling with the president of the republics comment “we know how to bring back life to the economy but we do not know how to bring back peoples life” which earned him ‘salutes’ all over the world at least on social media is a sign of hope for Africa in the fight against covid-19.

However, I have observed a gap in the campaign to get Ghanaian support the enforcement of the stay home and the social distancing measure by police and soldiers which I want to address.

I therefore humbly offer beneath suggestion to provoke stakeholders including the front line: health; providers, educators, the media and, especially the law enforcers of the Imposition of Restriction Act (E.I) 64 as well as the general public who must comply with the law to review social distancing to physical distancing.

This is because I have observed that all other laws, directive and appeals on how to prevent covid-19 are being adhered by the good people of Ghana except the social distancing which security officers are having challenges to get them to comply with.

As a student of development communication I believe using participatory approach to facilitate understanding on any project such as the ease of compliance and enforcement should be through the local language the people understand.

I then asked myself what is the difficulty with my fellow Ghanaians understanding hands washing, wearing nose mask, observing social distance and not to group in more than 25”s to prevent a delayed disease such as covid -19 though we washed our hands long before the waiters take 30 minutes to serve us, covered our noses with handkerchiefs 200meters to the lavender hill when it was indeed lavender hill, and even covers our mouth and nose to avoid the judicial notice of the bad odor from driver’s mate armpit when he whispers ‘yes’ to signal us his readiness to take our transport fares. I also wondered is it not the same Ghanaians who distance themselves from each other, in fact more than 5meters or sometimes leave the classroom, halls and other social gatherings when an unusual bad smell gash out unknown to all except the one who released the ‘carbon dioxide’ sometimes with ‘bombastic power’?

I realized then that there must be something with the message which had to do with the choice of language used social to qualify distancing instead of physical to do the qualification.

reason being that Ghanaians are familiar with the word physical at least among illiterate majority and literate up to undergraduate level than social which to many is not everyday term compared with the term physical education physical cash etc.

again ,To solidify my point on the adoption of physical distancing instead of social distancing currently in use by all including media I attempted to see how well I understand the two phrases (social distancing in contrast with physical distancing) to determine which one offers ease understanding at least in public education and law enforcement.

This is because I don’t believe the comments in the media suggesting Ghanaians are disobedient resulting to their non-observance of the social distancing as directed. This believe was supported by UTV reporter’s interview at Tema Fishing Harbor Cannon Beach on Monday, March 6, 2020.

in that exercise I under took for two weeks, I made a sincere judgment to myself that the same way most Ghanaians are familiar with the word budget than government physical statement for the year its will be appropriate authorities adopt the usage of physical distancing instead of social distancing to get all Ghanaians comply with the directive and obey the law made to prevent them from being infected by the dread covid-19.

The above conclusion was also made based on my curiosity in finding solution to how communication could be used to support police operation hence the pre-testing of my colleagues understanding on social distancing and physical distancing with two question; (1)what do you understand by social distancing and (2)how do you understand by physical distancing.

The result was intriguing as majority said social distancing is confusing than physical distancing which to most physical distance simply means don’t get close to a colleague whilst same people struggle to explain in simple term what it meant by social distancing.

This proves my point that social distance mean so many things to a Ghanaian hence the reluctance in compliance as against physical distancing which to the same Ghanaian means a simply term of given space between or among each other to avoid unwanted substance serious as covid-19.

The research questions elicited responds such as ‘I haven’t thought that oh, oh physical distancing is simple ‘it’s a daily activities we do to prevents unwanted substances.

I think therefore that, if physical distancing resonates with Ghanaians with everyday practice such as physically distancing to avoid the bad odor from ‘trotro’ mate’s armpit, shoe of husbands suffering from foot rot, son’s under pants left unchecked in the hall, closing noses when approaching odor river at circle and at lavender hill when it was lavender hill then let’s use the term as such for easy education, enforcement and compliance.

Per the above analysis I submits that if physical distancing is used in place of social distancing compliance rate will be high and may not necessarily require police and soldiers with canes to enforce a law we long practiced.

if possible let’s begin telling Ghanaians that all we meant by social distancing in times of covid-19 is the same as physical distance we long ensured in ‘tro tro’ and when someone releases ‘carbon dioxide’ in class , homes or at all social gatherings and see the level of high compliance.

I also no for a fact that many Ghana’s even unemployed calls for more holidays to stay at home and relax so it shouldn’t be difficult for us to observe two weeks ‘holidays’ to stay at home freely the given by president of the republic to fight deadly covid-19.

I think persuasion with right messages can do the trick to let Ghanaians comply with the laws to prevent covid-19 from spreading.

One would have noticed that apart from the initial challenges on enforcement and compliance of the law on closing of churches and mosques as well as halting of social gathering of more than 25 subsequent days did not record any pastor being arrested or a church forcibly closed.

It means that directive was clear as Ghanaian understood closed to mean close as well as not more than 25 without any doctor of social sciences to explain to us.

To this end I must say law enforcers will find it difficult to achieve their aim without torturing any if associate professor and professor emeritus’ in all fields continue with the present models to consolidate the education on social distancing without using the simple term physical distancing which resonate well with Ghanaians.

Again it will be like every Ghanaian student frightened on hearing mathematics as a subject of study but entertain no fears to add his income and deduct task without the help of any tax experts.

Having said that this is what Frank Hulley-Jones has in support for the use physical distancing “while purchasing essential food and medical supplies stay 2metres away from other customers and staff or keep clear of people on the way to and from the shops, and when inside them as well, if possible., shop alone, not in groups distancing easier to achieve. Only buy the essential things you need since it is natural that people worry about potentially being stuck indoors self-isolating for 14 days want to stock up on supplies.

my points above including that of frank hulky appear to have been buttressed by the World Health Organization (WHO) suggestion that the reference to "physical" as an alternative to "social", in keeping with the notion that it is a physical distance which prevents transmission; people can remain socially connected via technology.

Above all, I think we may alley the fears of Ghanaians’ about the drawbacks of social distancing which include loneliness, reduced productivity and the loss of other benefits associated with human interaction by adopting physical distancing which may not include the above drawbacks.

David Fianko-Okyere;

[email protected]

Bolgatanga-UER

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