COVID-19: Locking down Ghana inevitable but could bring hard times – Analyst warns
An international law and governance analyst, Kwame Mfodwo is warning that Ghana risks extreme starvation should it go into a complete lockdown now due to the rise in the number of confirmed cases of Coronavirus in the country.
Mr. Mfodwo is strongly convinced that it will be disastrous for the government to heed to calls for a shutdown and fail to institute well-thought-through mechanisms that will offer respite to its average income earning citizens in the long term.
He said although a possible lockdown is bound to happen given the nature of the pandemic, Ghana is ill-prepared for such a moment in the short term because of its current economic situation.
Speaking to Bernard Avle on The Point of View on Citi TV last night [Wednesday], Kwame Mfodwo said only a contextualized, well-guided lockdown that hinges on robust systems will save Ghana’s situation from getting worse.
“[A lockdown] is inevitable. The key issue is that we have to allow a lockdown that is defined and matches our context. I will say that, yes, we’ll actually go in for a lockdown. But as we sit here now, we can’t go into lockdown now in our current state because we can’t maintain it for more than three days or a week because people don’t have food and they will starve. But let’s be frank, we need a long term to say one month, six weeks, three months of a lockdown but we can’t actually do that immediately. But we can do a short term thing which we will then roll and improve on else it will not be sustainable.”
“For example, people live in compound houses and share facilities, what does lockdown mean to them? A single problem facing us is that people survive on a daily basis so if we are going to lock them down, they are going to starve unless you have a proper set of back up measures which the government has to think about. No one is going to be able to store food for the next six weeks because we’ve got electricity and water problems. The government also has to work out a way of finding some form of income support,” he added.
An effective lockdown, according to the government analyst, requires an extremely wide range of measures to support people.
He, therefore, admonished the government to come out with a comprehensive programme to address all aspects of lockdown before such a decision is announced.
Already, pressure is mounting on the government to urgently lock down the country as a means of escalating the country’s response to curbing the spread of the virus.
The Trades Union Congress (TUC) and the Bureau of Public Safety have both demanded that the government considers a total lockdown if necessary to prevent further spread of the novel coronavirus in the country.
Cases of the novel coronavirus in Ghana have hit 27 while the death toll has increased to 2 as of Monday, March 23, 2020.
A total of 521 suspected patients, according to the Ghana Health Service, were tested for COVID-19 by Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR) and Kumasi Centre for Collaborative Research (KCCR).
In respect of contact tracing, a total of 598 contacts have been identified and are being tracked, according to the Service.
While many other economic and health analysts predict tougher times ahead, the government says it will rely on a mix of funds from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and withdrawals from the Stabilisation Fund to finance the budgetary gap expected to be created by the fiscal impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
For instance, Chief Executive Officer of Dalex Finance, Ken Thompson has said a prolonged economic crisis looms following the outbreak of the virus in Ghana.
He has among other things, proposed a stimulus package, saying that the government must ensure that Ghana’s economic fortunes do not recede but bring relief to the citizenry during and after the COVID-19 outbreak.
The Minority in Parliament wants government to rely on reserves at the Central Bank to implement pro-poor measures to support individuals and firms that will be worst hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
The measures the Minority is proposing include rent subsidies and freezes, deferral of tax payments and a stimulus package for businesses.
Despite these concerns, President Nana Akufo-Addo has said the government is taking steps to handle any adverse impacts the global outbreak of coronavirus could have on the country’s economic fortunes.
He was hopeful that Ghana will take advantage of the pandemic, position itself as a self-reliant country and bring to an end the assistance it receives from other foreign countries.
But, Former President John Dramani Mahama had criticized the government for failing to address the impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic on Ghana’s economy.
The NDC flagbearer accused the government of doing little to cushion Ghana from a plunge in economic activities as a result of COVID-19 adding that the government must release its plan on how to keep the economy afloat.