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General News of Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Source: www.ghanaweb.com

Fact-check: Is the Majority Leader misleading the public on coronavirus status of MPs?

Claim

The Majority Leader in Parliament, Osei Kyei-Mensah Bonsu has denied claims he suggested some parliamentarians, staff, and journalists in the House had tested positive for COVID-19 after a first round of testing was conducted.

Accra-based radio station Peace FM on June 15, 2020, reported the Majority Leader debunking the claims stating; “I never said any MP has been infected… I didn't mention MPs or staff or journalists but just urged that those who are not picking calls of the doctors should corporate with the team.”

Explanation

Last week, the leadership of Parliament expressed concern over the MPs, staff, and journalists who were said to be defying orders to stay away from the House but were still reporting to work despite claims some had tested positive for COVID-19.

Following the outbreak of the coronavirus, Speaker of the House, Mike Oquaye ordered all 275 Members of Parliament (MPs) and staff of parliament to undergo mandatory COVID-19 testing.

What was imagined to be a routine test and outcome of the results communicated privately to only the individuals concerned, was rather met with some controversy that appeared to have divided the House.

Upon the testing, Parliament through its Acting Director of Public Affairs, Ms. Kate Addo on Tuesday, May 27, 2020, reacted to a report attributed to a radio station in Accra that two MPs and 13 staff members had tested positive for COVID-19.

The report which had initially gone viral on social media noted the identities of the persons that had been affected, were yet to be disclosed.

Reacting on the issue, Chairperson of the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE), Josephine Nkrumah said it is was “damn right irresponsible and preposterous” for MPs diagnosed with COVID-19 to keep mingling with their other colleagues at the chamber.”

Verification

In a recent turn of events, GhanaWeb.com identified the Majority Leader complaining about the defiance of MPs, staff and journalists who were still attending the chamber.

Mr. Kyei-Mensah Bonsu told the Speaker, Aaron Mike Oquaye on the floor of parliament on Friday, 12 June 2020;

“The arrangement was that anybody who, unfortunately, tested positive, will not be openly identified but that the testing team will have the arrangement to contact them behind the curtain and have the situation managed”, adding: “Mr. Speaker, that has been the arrangement but unfortunately, some people elected after contact has been made to them have ignored the appeal from the team and they visit parliament and endanger the lives of all of us.”

“The issue, Mr. Speaker is, if you’ve submitted yourselves and tested negative as some of us have, it doesn’t mean you are out of the woods. If anybody tests positive and comes close to you, chances are that you may contract the disease. It goes for everybody”, he warned.

“We want to appeal to the honorable members, to the staff, and to journalists who have been contacted behind the curtain and who are not submitting themselves to the testing team, you are imperiling the life of all of us,” he complained.

Conclusion

Despite calls by some MPs for the House to be shut down immediately, some civil society organisations have all expressed worry over the fact that some 'affected persons' were still attending proceedings.

The Majority Leader also on his part has warned that the House may be compelled to conduct a second round of testing should the 'affected persons' still be seen attending proceedings.

Thus, Mr. Kyei Mensah Bonsu’s claim that he did not INDICATE that some MPs, staff, and journalists in Parliament had tested positive for COVID-19 is FALSE, according to checks by GhanaWeb.

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