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General News of Saturday, 21 March 2020

Source: The Herald

NIA rubbishes GMA over coronavirus fears


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The National Identification Authority (NIA) has rubbished fears by the Ghana Medical Association (GMA), saying its decision to continue with the mass registration exercise after the government’s ban on all public gatherings in the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country, does not constitute a violation of President Akufo-Addo’s strict directive.

The NIA, has come under criticism for going ahead with the mass registration for the Ghana Card with some calling for an end to the exercise.

Interestingly, a Kumasi-based pastor was on Wednesday arrested for defying the ban on public gatherings in the wake of the deadly COVID-19 virus.

The head pastor of the Open Arms Ministry, Apostle Kofi Nkansah-Sarkodie, was picked up at the church in Kumasi, Wednesday for holding a service, despite the directive by the President.

The Medical Association, had asked the NIA to hold on with the Ghana Card registration, following the coronavirus outbreak in Ghana.

The GMA, said the registration, if not stopped, following Ghana recording nine cases, will further endanger the lives of the staff of the NIA and Ghanaians in general.

A statement issued by President of the GMA, Dr Frank Ankobeah, said the NIA’s continues registration, also violates the order given by the president against all social gatherings.

Reacting to the criticisms in a Facebook post on Thursday, March 19, 2020, the NIA noted that its “conduct does not violate the President’s directives on public gatherings in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"On the contrary, the NIA decision is harmonious with both the letter and spirit of the following equally compelling directive” of President Akufo-Addo that “businesses and other workplaces can continue to operate, but should observe prescribed social distancing between patrons and staff.”

It continued that the country is “not in a lock-down, and the business of Government is not expected to cease” reiterating that the activities of the NIA are “consistent with this position and the above directive of the President. The issue is not whether or not NIA should continue with the registration exercise but rather its implementation of the social distancing and personal hygiene protocols.”

The NIA further continued that it is using “a numbering and appointment system to manage queues at the registration centres and ensure that there is no crowd build-up and violation of social distancing protocols. All NIA field staff are being supplied with the requisite Personal Protection Equipment (PPEs), such as hand sanitizers and gloves. Veronica Buckets, water bowls, liquid soap and hand towels are also being provided at each registration centre.

“In addition, applicants’ details and telephones numbers are taken on arrival, and they are given specific times to report at the centre for registration or card issuance, instead of congregating at the centres. All staff and applicants at registration centres are regularly advised by the Supervising Registration Officer (SRO) to observe the appropriate two-meter social distancing instruction, as well as personal hygiene protocols”.

It added that: “These measures are consistent with the directives” of President Akufo-Addo as well as the “advice of the health experts.”

On Sunday, the President placed an embargo on all public gatherings including funerals, festivals and church activities as part of measures to stop the spread of novel coronavirus across in the country.

“All public gatherings including conferences, workshops, funerals, festivals, political rallies, sporting events and religious activities, such as services in churches and mosques, have been suspended for the next four (4) weeks. Private burials are permitted, but with limited numbers, not exceeding twenty-five (25) in attendance,” he said.

Video circulation showed the congregants, numbering over 40 are seen singing praise and worship songs even in the presence of armed security personnel.

The preacher, popularly known as Saint Sark, was backed by cheers from his members even as he was driven to the Kumasi Central Police Station.



Read the full statement below

“All public gatherings, including conferences, workshops, political rallies, sporting events and religious activities, such as services in churches and mosques, have been suspended for the next four (4) weeks. Private burials are permitted, but with limited numbers, not exceeding twenty-five (25) in attendance”.* These were the words of His Excellency The President in relation to public gatherings when he addressed the nation last Sunday night on Ghana’s response to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

The NIA’s decision to continue with the mass registration exercise after this Presidential directive has come under severe criticism condemnation, with some describing the ongoing registration as defying the orders of the President, and calling for the immediate cessation of the exercise.

The NIA’s conduct does NOT violate the President’s directives on public gatherings in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. On the contrary, the NIA decision is harmonious with both the letter and spirit of the following equally compelling directive of His Excellency The President, ” *Businesses and other workplaces can continue to operate, but should observe prescribed social distancing between patrons and staff”.* The state of Ghana is not in a lock-down, and the business of Government is not expected to cease. The activities of NIA are consistent with this position and the above directive of the President. The issue is not whether or not NIA should continue with the registration exercise but rather its implementation of the social distancing and personal hygiene protocols.

NIA is using a numbering and appointment system to manage queues at the registration centres and ensure that there is no crowd build-up and violation of social distancing protocols. All NIA field staff are being supplied with the requisite Personal Protection Equipment (PPEs), such as hand sanitizers and gloves. Veronica Buckets, water bowls, liquid soap and hand towels are also being provided at each registration centre.

In addition, applicants’ details and telephones numbers are taken on arrival, and they are given specific times to report at the center for registration or card issuance, instead of congregating at the centres. All staff and applicants at registration centres are regularly advised by the Supervising Registration Officer (SRO) to observe the appropriate two-meter social distancing instruction, as well as personal hygiene protocols.

These measures are consistent with the Directives of His Excellency The President, as well as the advice of the health experts.

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