You are here: HomeOpinionsArticles2020 04 22Article 931711

Opinions of Wednesday, 22 April 2020

Columnist: Joseph Wemakor

COVID-19 lockdown: The good, the bad and the ugly

Joseph Wemakor, author Joseph Wemakor, author

The world has been brought to its knees by the outbreak of the novel coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19).

The global pandemic which has claimed numerous lives and still counting had left the huge majority of the populace bedridden.

As deadly as virus can be, the novel coronavirus has brought untold hardships to many around the world and still continues to wreak havoc without control.

Since its emergence late last year at Wuhan in China, the fearful disease has spread nearly to every country in the world and killed some 177,424 people and infected more than 2.5 million with 681,842 recoveries made recently, according to data compiled by John Hopkins University.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has since been compelled to come out with protocols which was adopted by countries all over the world in an attempt to prevent the spread and instigate the flattening of the curve for COVID-19 cases.

The approach adopted globally has predominately been a partial lockdown of all sectors of the economy with the exception of essential services.

The imposition of ban on all public gatherings like conferences, funerals, festivals political rallies, church services including Islamic worships which began in Ghana on Monday March 16, 2020 was the first call of action from President Nana Akufo-Addo to all Ghanaians as a measure to stem down the virus.

The move also necessitated the closure of both public and private schools and universities in the country with the introduction of distance learning for all students.

A declaration was then made followed by the direction by the president to the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Communication to be conveyed to the public which ought to be observed with immediate effect.

Despite being a global crisis which has caused wanton devastation across the entire world, the deadly coronavirus can be said to have its pros and cons if critically analyzed.

Judging from my own perspective, ‘the good, the bad and the ugly’ could best fit for a description without mincing words.

Mirroring first from the angle of bad, it is obvious to know that the impact on health, economy, businesses, education, politics and food and agriculture by the novel coronavirus have been a hard hit and the consequences quite alarming.

Talking about health, one cannot dispute the unprecedented human and health crisis brought upon many lives in Ghana and other parts of the world due to the effects of the global pandemic. From the widespread concern, fear and stress which dominates and accompanied by mental trauma right from the health risks posed to the lives of people as well as the financial burden on health facilities across the world.

Another ‘social evil’ which is a bane to controlling the pandemic is stigmatization which reared its ugly head in the world and contributed to more severe health problems and ongoing transmission among others. Since the emergence of COVID-19, we have witnessed stigmatization among specific populations, and the rise of harmful stereotypes.

The advent of the global pandemic has crippled many businesses resulting to a huge loss of revenues which further necessitated many layoffs within the shortest period of time.

For some experts, the economic downturn triggered was could be due to the necessary measures put in place to contain the virus. A BBC’S recent online report dated April 7, 2020 pointed out that four out of five people’s jobs was hit by the pandemic. According to the report, which was compiled based on the research conducted by the International Labour Organization (ILO), a total of 81% of the global workforce of 3.3 billion people have had their workplace fully or partly closed. It further noted: “Restrictions on daily life have led to the closure of many companies and the laying off of staff either permanently or temporarily”. “Workers and businesses are facing catastrophe, in both developed and developing economies”, said ILO director general Guy Ryder.

The latest Global Financial Stability Report indicates that the financial system has already felt a dramatic impact, and a further intensification of the crisis could affect global financial stability. From all indication, it is obvious to know that the significant adverse impact on the global economy have been a major problem which has compelled governments around the world to implement various fiscal measures to mitigate the effects and provide relief for businesses and households.

Ghana as a developing country is not an exception to the challenges posed to the economy due to the effects of the global pandemic resulting to huge revenue losses and layoffs of staff by companies and businesses alike across different parts of the world.

In his statement to the Parliament of Ghana on the topic: “Economic Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the Economy of Ghana dated March 30, 2020, Ghana’s Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta outlined that Ghana is expected to suffer a revenue shortfall of up to GHC2.2 billion (about $377 million) as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

According to him, this is as a result of “the anticipated decline in import volumes and values, as well as the slowdown in economic activities. According to him, this is as a result of “the anticipated decline in import volumes and values, as well as the slowdown in economic activities.

He further noted that there will be a significant hit on the country’s non-oil revenue due to the pandemic.

There is no doubt we are currently living in hard times as a result of the COVID-19 which poses threat to our population, not only for its risk to human life and ensuing economic distress, but also for its invisible emotional strain.

Recent days have seen sharpest economic pullback in modern history and a record-breaking spike in unemployment.

It is inevitable that that the global pandemic, compounded by financial crisis, will have material impact on the behavioral health of society. At this point, there is a great uncertainty about its severity and length.

Another aspect of the some of the bad things we’ve been experiencing during this era of the outbreak of COVID-19 in other words, the “social evil” has been due to the adherence to WHO’s standard recommendations and the lockdown restrictions outlined by head of states and presidents of various countries across the world.

For example, the ban on public gatherings like conferences, funerals, festivals political rallies, church services including Islamic worships among others, remaining behind closed doors without going to work, as well as the observance of the social distancing protocols made it difficult for people to socialize as normal. You can bet that, with this development, the desires of party goers and fun lovers will be crushed.

People who lost their loved will be sitting on tenterhooks without conducting them a befitting burial until further notice. Recently, even though the ban has been lifted on funerals there’s a restriction that not more than twenty-five people are allowed at a funeral ground. This is indeed ‘wicked’ and denial of people who may want to wish their loved ones a good bye on their last day on earth.

The compliance to the above measures actually limits the freedom of movements and association of people which is a violation of their fundamental human rights.

Although the measures put in place were geared towards containing the spread of the novel coronavirus in the country, some deemed it harsh since it became a barrier to socialization as well as sparks stigmatization.

This is not just a typical Ghanaian case but a global phenomenon also becoming a barrier to the fight against the pandemic.

The worse form of it all is that this kind of stigmatization happens when people suspect you having the virus without the proof of a medical test, they easily conclude among themselves that you have contracted the disease therefore they tend to avoid you. Not to even talk about the survivors or those who have been cured of the terrible disease.

The era of the lockdown we were told also brought about some degrees of domestic violence perpetrated by some husbands on their wives since it made it possible for people to stay at home with their families. For instance, in Ghana, the lockdown period lasted for three weeks after which it was lifted. Unfortunately, during the period, issues of domestic violence, sexual and gender based violence, emotional abuses among others were reported.

When Ghana first proscribed public gatherings for a month from March 15, 2020 after it confirmed the first case of COVID-19, schools, markets, churches, mosques as well as other social gatherings such as weddings and funerals have remained under a ban since the first order.

The country’s entry points have also been shut and a lockdown is imposed on some major cities, in regions where COVID-19 cases have been reported from in significant numbers. Though the country’s President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has recently lifted the lockdown, the extension on public gatherings still continues for two more weeks, he declared.

Since his declaration last Sunday, Ghanaians have received his message with mixed reactions; some were in approval while others were in disapproval of it for various reasons best known to them. But the challenge remains for a fact that they have missed the olden days which brought them together not apart in recent times.

Finally, you cannot mention hunger without attributing to the COVID-19 and lockdown; they go hand in hand.

The loss of jobs of masses and closure of businesses due to the global pandemic coupled with the lockdown measures which ordered people to stay home and forfeit all business operations in order to contain the virus for weeks is one of the contributory factors during the period.

Another contributing factor to the whole saga is that the majority of Ghanaian population are made up of the vulnerable and the unemployed who often struggle to survive or could not afford even three (3) square meals per day. How far more in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown where hardship, trauma, joblessness and above health issues compound to give rise to hunger since aid in terms of free food, water and other essentials cannot suffice the beleaguered majority of people.

It appears at a time, most Ghanaians could not control the gravity of hunger being felt during the lockdown as it worsen. What even worsen the hardship in the system is that in the wake of the pandemic, prices of foodstuffs and other essentials in the marketplaces have skyrocketed by traders even though they are supposed see a reduction to cushion people.

At a point in time, you are likely to hear a popular slogan from the lips of people in the local parlance (Twi), if you have listen attentively enough: “It is not the disease that will kills us but the accompanying hunger”. This alone goes to give credence to the fact that hunger is a great issue at hand. Not only that, the hunger situation during the lockdown has also compelled the controversial boxer Braimah Kamoko, popularly known as Bukom Banku who beseeched President Akufo-Addo not to extend the lockdown for an additional two weeks. Who knows, maybe the President might have listened to his plea which informed his decision to lift up the lockdown on Sunday. Well it’s obvious, the experiences of hunger will forever linger in the minds of Ghanaians even after the dark days of COVID-19 fades away.

The COVID-19 with its lockdown though reflects a lot of bad things in perspective, it brought about the horrendous, the ugliest things and unforeseen circumstances which ought to be condemned in no uncertain terms.

Have you recalled the alleged shootings and killings including brutalities meted out to civilians by the security forces who enforced the partial lockdown¬?

First of all, let me commend His Excellency President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo for the measures put in place to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic in order to ensure that all Ghanaians remain safe. We might not have seen the effects of the three-week partial lockdown imposed in several areas of the country which was lifted last Sunday taking cognizance of the upsurge in the coronavirus cases recorded in the country but let’s give the honor to whom it is due in this regard.

Since his announcement about the lift on the lockdown, some Ghanaians have criticized the move, describing it as a ‘risky move’ noting that the country has confirmed more than 1,000 known cases of coronavirus. Let me also use this opportunity to congratulate our gallant men in uniform (law enforcement agencies), the police and the military personnel who supported the president in his quest to ensure that the lockdown protocols are observed all Ghanaians.

The security personnel deserve not only an applause but a standing ovation for their indefatigable roles played but however, let me be quick to condemn the ‘unhealthy act’ of some lockdown enforcement officers who misconducted themselves as I cannot close my eyes to the excesses. If I tell you I do not see anything wrong with the excesses, I may be directly saying instant justice is accepted.

In the wake of the lockdown restrictions NGOs CSOs, and the public complained about the excessive force used by both the police and the military officers to enforce the lockdown directives.

The use of brute force and draconian measures such as beating, sit-ups, slapping, spanking, push-ups, the use of cane including other alleged gruesome shooting and killings amounts to human rights abuse which go to defeat the purpose for which uniformed officials in town.

Apparently, this could be termed as the most deadly and the ugliest scenes which mar the lockdown and must not be allowed to repeat itself. No, never again in the history of Ghana!

First it was the 67-year-old widow who was allegedly assaulted by a police officer, followed by the shooting of a civilian by a military officer. Then came the fatal shooting and killing of a civilian, Eric Ofotsu, aka “No Yawa” by a military officer at Ashaiman Municipality on Sunday, April 5, 2020.

Meanwhile, there were other incidents of shooting in other parts of the country which mar the lockdown; the alleged shooting and wounding a motor rider, a 36-year-old Isaac Odei was shot and wounded by a soldier after he run a security blockade Dobro near Nsawam including some journalists who were allegedly assaulted while performing their duties which the Ghana Journalists (GJA) Association has condemned. There was also an unfortunate case where a soldier allegedly shot a policewoman, Lance Corporal Francisca Tengey who was on duty at Tema New Town in the Tema Metropolis of the Greater Accra Region. The rise in incidents of this nature by our men in uniform gives cause for concern.

Disgusting indeed!, it still beats my imagination to know that ever since the alleged abominable acts of our men in uniform found its way into the public domain captured on short videos assaulting and brutalizing civilians which have gone viral on social media as proof, no form of investigation has been carried out yet to identify the perpetrators and have them punished accordingly.

These acts of lawlessness have since received wide condemnation from the Human Rights Reporters Ghana (HRRG), a non-governmental organization (NGO) including other Civil Society Organizations in the country through their various press releases issued out to the media with the hope that the authorities will take action but to no avail.

This unfortunate rise in incidents of use of brutal means to keep people off the streets during lockdown did not only happen in Ghana, but other African countries like Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda and Kenya which was reported by some International Media outlets.

Equally, elsewhere in Malaysia, UK and other parts of the world there were abuse of power by the police to enforce COVID-19 lockdown which shouldn’t have been the norm.

There have also been worldwide reports of a rise in racism and xenophobia as a result of the spread of the coronavirus, fuelled in part by hate speech and disinformation online.

I believe while protecting public health must be prioritized, we should not abandon our principles and commitments to other rights including equality and non-discrimination.

The professionalism of the security personnel across the world in recent times has been called to question as they seemed to have chosen abuse of power over competence instead of the other way round.

Maybe it’s about time our men in uniform particularly the deviant ones among the good ones who are always engaged in flouting the laws should bow down their heads in shame. They should endeavor to choose competency over abuse of power and cling to honor.

The novel coronavirus pandemic may have brought the world woes, sorrows and untold hardships culminating into bad and ugly situation but in the midst of all these, we can heave a sigh of relief and part ourselves in the shoulders for good and say. “It is well”.

The story of Ghana my beloved country is no difference as it is happening in other parts of the world including Africa in terms of the goodies we as citizens have enjoyed since when the deadly pandemic reared its ugly head into the shores of the country in March.

Hell broke loose on that fateful day of March 12, 2020 when the news went viral about the confirmation of the first two cases of COVID-19 in Ghana when two people returned from Norway and Turkey. Indeed the sad news send shivers down the spine of many Ghanaians amidst heightened fear despite all the woes it brings, the good news is that Ghana’s President, Nana Akufo-Addo came out to announce that his government will foot the water bills of all Ghanaians for the months of April, May and June. GOOD NEWS!

He also proclaimed that no one will have his electricity power disconnected for the next three months for lack of payment. GOOD NEWS!

“The Ghana Water Company Limited and the Electricity Company of Ghana have been directed to ensure the stable supply of water and electricity during this period. There will be no disconnection of supply”.

These measures announced by President Akufo-Addo are aimed at cushioning the public, especially the vulnerable families, from effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Ghanaians welcomed the good news from the president with glee. For the first time in history, government has come out to give free water and free electricity for 3 months? Wow!, isn’t this a good news to jubilate over?. I wish you could see the smile in my face as I type these few words to complete my sentence.

Wait minute… I’m not yet done with the good news about the COVID-19 and the lockdown okay, I beg your pardon just wait for me to finish before you can go ahead and taunt me. Hey!

Following, the proclamation of free electricity and water for 3 months period to all Ghanaians, government also announces free food for over 400,000 in locked down areas amidst the COVID-19 outbreak in the country. This was also announced by the president on Sunday when he addressed the nation to update Ghanaians on some measures being taken by the government in the fight against the pandemic.

In his address, Nana Akufo-Addo admitted that the hardship the situation has brought on the majority of Ghanaians adding that there was however the need for the provision of “food packages and hot meals” to enable poor households to minimize their vulnerability. GOOD NEWS INDEED!

Bam! Wow! That was another good news up there for Ghanaians in vulnerable communities in within the lockdown area; Accra, Tema, Kumasi and Kasoa. This include stranded head porters also known as kayayei. First time in the history of Ghana we have witnessed over 400,000 vulnerable people within these earmarked communities provided with free hot meals in addition to free water and electricity for 3 months. This is so incredible, an initiative that can only be powered by the deadly novel coronavirus himself!

The question is does deadly things only kill or they heal too? Your guess is as good as mine!.

The charitable move by the government to relieve the plights of the vulnerable ones during the lockdown was augmented by the faith-based organizations, NGOs, CSOs, philanthropists and corporate organizations, political parties as well as Former President John Dramani Mahama who were equally moved in to donate food, water, medicine, hand sanitizers and other essentials to support emulate the gesture.

Similar initiatives has been replicated in other parts of the world including African countries. But beyond the philanthropic gestures, the coronavirus pandemic has put a stop to many social vices which puts people’s lives at risk. For example, in the wake of coronavirus pandemic and the lockdown, ritual killings, armed robbery, prostitution, womanizing and promiscuity and above all other criminal activities including the “almighty kidnapping” has come to a halt. Eeerrh, like seriously? This is unbelievable!

If you would recalled between late 2018 and 2019, the activities of kidnappers have wreaked havoc in Ghana with rising cases of kidnapping which has become a nightmare to every Ghanaian. The phenomenon witnessed many cases including disappearance of three girls at Takoradi whose hope of being found still remain a mystery.

It beats the imaginations of most Ghanaians why the so-called kidnappers have ceased to carry out their nefarious activities of seizing unsuspecting victims as they used to do. At this point, I’m equally wondering why the so-called miscreants have not moved in action to doing what they know doing best barely few months ago. Anyway, I’m tempted to ask a question right now but aww, it just dawn on me that, the “almighty Papa coronavirus pandemic” is the reason why all the ‘nonsense’ we see happening around us including other parts of the world have ceased to repeat itself in recent times.

I remembered hearing someone earlier said: “CORONA VIRUS STOPS NONSENSE”!
Is this saying true or false?