The impact of the coronavirus pandemic has turned the world upside down. It has rendered the most sophisticated governments and Economies helpless and almost useless as Italy nearly became extinct and the Great USA doing "try and error' with the virus. The virus has killed more than 166,000 people globally.
Ghana sits on the Atlantic Ocean, about many miles aways from Wuhan, and has also suffered from the 'Chinese virus' and has added 9 deaths to the global death toll. The president of Ghana, like any other president in the world, has implemented necessary measures which include quarantines, social distancing practices, closure of borders, and until recently a partial lock down in Greater Accra, Greater Kumasi and Kasoa. Like any other country, Ghana never prepared for this and does not know with great certainty how we should do with this virus. The whole world is playing gamble. Lock downs allows enhanced contact tracing and prevent the positives making contacts. We will have to decide for ourselves the gamble we want to play. There is a trade off between saving lives and saving likelihoods. A trade off between shutting down the economy, locking up people in their homes with no plans of feeding, and reducing their exposure to the virus which ultimately will lead to human extinction. Which gamble should we play? None of the choice reduces death either. When you go out you die and when you stay in you die. Ghana may still not have gotten out of the woods yet but the lifting of the lockdown is one of the best decision so far giving the extreme uncertainty of the duration of the pandemic coupled with the extreme uncertainty of economic impact. The president is applying both alternatives alternatively. No one can succeed locking unguarded hungry man in a house, he will get 1000s legitimate and moral reasons to go out.
Let's take a quick overview of Ghana's economy and how the covid-19 can affect us.
The statistics shows the distribution of employment in Ghana in 2019. 33.5 percent of the employees in Ghana are active on the Agricultural sector, 18.62 percent in the industry and 47.88 percent in the service sector. The outbreak and resulting self-quarantining and lockdown would not hurt all sectors equally. The airline sector, tourism and retail industry will suffer the greatest. The good news is Ghana is not driven by these sectors . Ghana however is dominated by the informal sector which hasn't being affected greatly by the restriction on movement order. The exclusion of the essential services providers benefited most people in the informal sector which include traders of consumables like market women and those in the agricultural sector. Whiles the women running hectic marketplaces do not hold political power, their collective force is what drives the economy. The market is a major contributer to the country's services sector, which makes up half of the country's GDP. Recently they were accused of driving up prices, instigating and accelerating the economic crises brought up by covid-19. Ghana driven by informal sector having its members excluded from restrictions is good news.
Global economy is projected to decline and the country should embrace itself for the contagion effect. The cumulative loss to global GDP over 2020 and 2021 is projected to be around 9 trillion dollars by IMF.
There are some hopeful indicators that this too shall come to pass. China has succeeded in containing the virus. If the virus doesn't recede soon, the government must take the draconian measures to test all members working in the industry to know their status , isolate them from their family and allow them to work in their various manufacturing companies to feed the country and put the economy in checks.
We can succeed in containing the virus using social distancing practices, testing contact tracing, at least for now until a vaccine is developed.
Some parts of Ghana severely hit by the virus were locked down partially. Travellers who are likely carriers were quarantined. Contact tracing were enhanced to identify other potential carriers. Within the three weeks, any unidentified carrier would have developed symptoms and identified. So after three weeks, from common sense point of view, it's great to allow people with no symptom to go out with measures.
Some Ghanaians have however proven not to go by instruction on social distancing, so I am hopeful plan A or another lock down will be imposed soon if plan B of
ban lifting proves futile. We are gambling to get the more effective measure because desperate times call for desperate measures.
The writer is a Teaching and Research Assistant at the Department of Accounting and Finance, KNUST School of Business.