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Opinions of Monday, 20 April 2020

Columnist: John Dramani Mahama

Day 20 of lockdown – Mahama writes

It is day 20 of the lockdown, and the 5th consecutive Sunday that I have not joined others to fellowship at church.

I am certain that this fellowship is missed by many Christians among us and across the denominations of faith; and by our Muslim brethren who have similarly had to forego the observance of their obligatory Friday congregational prayer.

Like all of you, I remain confident in the assurance that God is in control of the affairs of this nation and will heal our land of this dreadful plague.

The lockdown is wearing out everyone, but this is a necessary pain we must bear to reinforce the great national effort against this virus. But we must not lose sight of the fact that some of our brothers and sisters are suffering its effects more acutely. I am talking about the poor, the vulnerable and the disabled.

We must each do more to support those who need it most in all the ways we can. I count myself fortunate in this respect for being able to share my widow’s mite with some vulnerable households in our society. I hope to be able to continue to do so in the coming days and weeks.

Recent developments have made it clear, the extent of the spread of the virus. The last report put the number of confirmed cases at 834. Many health experts continue to suggest the necessity and appropriateness of an extension of the restrictions on movement.

Some are even advocating an expansion of the lockdown to other areas of the country, because the threat and consequence of horizontal transmission is becoming clearer by the day. It is my hope that any decision the President makes would be guided by science and what is in the national interest.

If this should be the case, I would urge government to be relentless in its efforts to scale up and improve the support to households to confront the attendant humanitarian crisis.

As I noted a few days ago, there is dissatisfaction with the quality and mode of distribution of the relief (food) packages. In some cases there have been reports of distributions along partisan lines.

The time has come for government to operationalize a partnership between our local assemblies, traditional authorities and community-based organisations to assist with the distribution process, in their various localities, in order to ensure transparency, trust and fairness.

These organisations have the insights needed to understand how we can achieve equity and fairness in distributing the desperately needed food and supplies.

This is a time to be innovative. We should also explore the use of the acquired competencies of some parastatals in utility bill distribution to help deliver food stuff directly to households with the support of security personnel.

I personally experimented the concept of handing over food items directly to households in two communities, and the process was smooth, well received and the items went directly to all who needed them.

It is clear also that the bulk of our people do not understand the concept of social distancing and have also begun a stigmatisation of the infection.

It will be useful to use our traditional and religious leaders in a massive educational campaign in all the major languages on the mode of transmission and nature of COVID-19.

A final thought. I received a suggestion on Facebook last week about reaching out directly to the President with the suggestions I have made in this series of posts.

Indeed, many of the recommendations I have made were drawn from the work of my COVID-19 Technical Advisory Team, which has already submitted these proposals to government in the form of two Policy Papers. The most recent one was delivered on Friday.

I encourage all to keep practicing the preventive measures such as handwashing with soap under running water, and to continue social distancing by staying at home.

These are not normal times and we must continue to stick together and united as one nation, one people with one destiny.

John Dramani Mahama
Cantonments- Accra

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