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Opinions of Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Columnist: Hannah Awadzi

Coronavirus: What does it mean to have a lockdown?


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I spent my whole day on Saturday, 21st March, debating the flu-like COVID-19 pandemic on social media. I was debating on the motion that Ghana at this stage, did not need the option of a lockdown.

It looks like the majority calling for a lockdown, are doing so due to fear and others for the fact that they require some break from work to stay home.
Many may not have experienced a work from the home situation before and fancy how that is going to be like.

There was panic shopping following the announcement that markets in the Greater Accra Region were going to be shut down on Monday, 23rd March, for those places to be disinfected.

The markets were choked, according to reports I saw on social media and later on, in the news. Some market women interviewed, spoke of a boom.

They made so much money, prices were hiked and one described the shopping on the day as compared to the last minute Christmas sales.

One of the points of my debate was that if COVID-19 infection was to accelerate, it would have spread really fast on the 21st of March, due to panic shopping.

The human and vehicular traffic was serious, social distancing rules were ignored in the markets that day as people tended to rub their bodies against each other without even knowing. They were busily stockpiling.

Question is how much really can one stockpile?

People bought things they did not need Someone I engaged in a chat with said, she bought three packs of matches, some tins of sardines, even though she did not ordinarily eat sardines and packs of candles, in case the lights went off. It sounded very funny to me.

In analysing the day, I said that even if there was the need for Ghana to declare a lockdown, it should not be done immediately.

The argument of the others was that, even Italy, with all its sophisticated health care system, is unable to contain the virus spread, a major reason, they think a lockdown was appropriate.

I, on the other hand, thought that, we needed time to process a lockdown mentally before any such thing could occur.

So what is a lockdown if I may ask?

A Lockdown is a protocol followed in an emergency that involves confining people in a secure place. With regards to COVID 19, it means forcing people to stay home or to observe social distancing to avoid the spread of the pathogen.

I do not think that there is a blueprint for how a lockdown should be.

Someone could even say that Ghana is currently in a lockdown somehow.

Organizations have already advised their employees on social distancing and have put in place alternative arrangements for how work should go on.

In other jurisdictions, with even an efficient social support structure in place, the people may be struggling with lockdown and elsewhere, citizens are on board to help make the situation feel easier on their fellow human being.

Do we really need a lockdown in Ghana?

The people have greatly commended the government on their efforts so far.

A lockdown may mean different things to different countries, depending on the prevailing situation at hand, so for example, even in the United States of America, a lockdown means different things for different states. in New York, for instance, all New Yorkers are ordered to work from home.

Employees in essential jobs and government personnel can continue to work.

Solitary walks and outdoor exercise is permitted but all team sports are banned. Residents are allowed to go to the grocery store and run errands.

Restaurants and bars can still deliver to homes. All non-essential businesses state-wide must close their premises. Liquor and wine stores are classified as essential so can stay open, as can pharmacies, grocery stores, restaurants and bars offering takeout and delivery only.

Mass transit and roadways are not affected.

In California, residents are allowed to run errands to the grocery store and pharmacy. Walks outside are permitted while practising social distancing.

Employees in essential jobs can continue to work outside the house. All other Californians will work from home for the time being. Restaurants can deliver to homes.

In Pennsylvania, all businesses not considered “life-sustaining” will be closed starting on Saturday.

Grocery stores, gas stations, banks, health care providers, and social assistance services still open. Restaurants can only offer take-out, delivery, and drive-through services.

New Jersey has a State-wide curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. No gatherings larger than 50 people. All bars and restaurants are shut down, but takeout and delivery is allowed.

All bars, nightclubs, casinos, movie theatres, and gyms are shutdown. All indoor shopping malls, amusement parks, and bowling alleys are shutdown.

So what will a lockdown mean for Ghana? Will it be a situation where there are no movements at all, will it be a curfew? Will organizations be closed, will banks work? Remember we use cash predominantly.

The President has announced a raft of measures to help contain and stop the COVID-19 spread and among these is the restriction of public gathering which is forcing churches and mosques to temporary close down.

Following the President’s directives, the Head of Civil Service has announced flexible work schedules for civil servants to deal with the rush hour and ultimately to avoid too many people using the public transport system at the same time.

Private businesses may choose to close down if they so require. So what actually does the call for a lockdown in Ghana entail, a country, where people survive on a day-to-day basis.

In my opinion, an announcement of a lockdown will create more panic and will make people act irrationally, perhaps resulting in more deaths than what the pandemic itself will cause.

Does Ghana really need a total lockdown? The answer I think absolutely lies with the President.

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