N\R: Observing COVID-19 Safety Protocols now a history.

In March 2020, the Ghana Health Service adopted the World Health Organization’s recommendations to curtail the spread of the Corona Virus in Ghana, this came after the arrival of the Corona Virus in the month reserved as Ghana month, thus on the 12th March 2020.

On the said date, the Ghana Health Service announced that Ghana had recorded two cases of Covid-19, which were both “imported cases from Norway and Turkey”, and went ahead to give credence to the restraints of the World Health Organization to the global community to limit travel.

President of the Republic of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo on 15th March 2020, initiated measures including the closure of schools at all levels, ban on all social gatherings, limiting guest at funerals to twenty (20), and a temporary lockdown of the Greater Accra, Ashanti, and parts of the Central regions when the cases surged.

Nana Akufo-Addo implored citizens to observe all the safety protocols recommended by the W.H.O which included; limiting physical contact (including handshake), regular handwashing with soap under running water, and rubbing of hands with alcohol-based hand sanitisers and wearing of face masks among others with an emphasis on ensuring adequate handwashing and social distancing in all public places, including markets and transport terminals.

The Ghanaian government made the wearing of face masks in public compulsory as the country tries to contain a surge in COVID-19 cases.
President Nana Akufo-Addo announced the order in his 22nd televised address and directed the police to enforce it.

Ghana had previously begun introducing measures to gradually make the wearing of face masks in public mandatory. In April last year, the wearing of face masks was made compulsory in public only in the Greater Accra region and the Cape Coast Metropolis.

The Ministry of Health also issued a directive in the same month telling citizens to wear face masks in public places where it may be difficult to maintain social distancing.

Defying Covid-19 protocols

Our Northern Regional Correspondent, Prince Kwame Tamakloe, observed face masks compliance in churches, mosques, and shopping centres within the Tamale Metropolis and the Sagnarigu Municipality.

While shoppers at Melcom Ghana were only allowed into the mall with a face mask on, shoppers at Quality First, Walbart, Forsmuel shopping centres, and Nasant Ventures wore none.

Shoppers constantly threatened owners with boycotts when instructed to wear their face masks, Prince Kwame Tamakloe observed.

Maxwell Fordjour, General Manager of Forsmuel Shopping Centre, revealed shoppers keep blaming their actions on forgetfulness.

“Some of the customers tell us it is not intentional, rather they forgot of their nose masks either at home or workplaces, and we cannot drive them away because they are not wearing the face mask, but I always advise them to always wear their face masks.”

Sales Manager of Walbart Super Market, Evans Batariwa, could not pretend he is unaware of the blatant disregard to the safety protocols by shoppers but wants to protect the business of his paymaster.

“I used to advise shoppers to wear the mask when the cases were going high, but now most of them think Covid-19 is gone, so when you, talking to them about wearing their mask, they see it like you disturbing them.”

“We have tried our best to always ask them to put their masks on but they always refuse and threaten to go to other shops to buy their items if we keep disturbing them about the wearing of face mask”, an attendant at Nasant Ventures who wants to remain anonymous told our reporter.

30th April 2021 was a Friday and a congregational day for Muslims globally. Our reporter visited two mosques including, the Afajurah Mosque, a popular mosque situated on the Tamale-Bolga N1 highway a few meters away from the central business of Tamale, and the Tamale Technical University Central mosques.

To his dismay, the environment was business as usual in both mosques he almost virtually found no worshippers in face masks. Some of the worshipers who were not wearing face masks said they don’t believe the disease exists. Among the worshippers at the Afajurah mosque was Samed Abubakari, who will not let go of his conspiracy until he comes into contact with an infected person.

“NPP people are telling lies, they want to spend our money and they are claiming there is Coronavirus, you yourself have you seen a corona patient before?” Abubakari quizzed.

While Abubakari argued that Covid-19 is “another of government’s money stealing gimmick”,.

Abass Eliasu has another conspiracy: “Covid-19 is not a disease for the poor, rather a disease for the rich, so for me, I will not get the disease because I am not rich, and for that matter, I would not disturb myself to wear any face mask.”

The Tamale Technical University Central Mosque Imam who doubles as the branch President of the Ghana Muslim Students Association, Sheikh Zakaria Abdul-Razak mentioned that: “I have advised my congregants especially the students on several occasions to always wear the face masks but you know here in Tamale many people don’t take the sickness serious so they won’t heed to the protocols”.

Ironically, both the Afajurah and Tamale Technical University Mosques have notices that read “No FACE MASK NO ENTRY” boldly posted on all the entrances of the structures.

The situation, however, was different at the Holy Cross Catholic, the Our Lady of Fatima, and the Kalpohin Estate S.D.Churches on Sunday 16th May. There was strict adherence to face mask-wearing and social distancing, Prince Kwame Tamakloe observed.

Health Experts’ response

A staff at the Tamale Covid-19 Treatment Centre, Dr. Victor Aduku, revealed he has also observed the phenomenon, which he said is a worrying trend.

“Because people don’t see others die in their communities out of the disease, they do not believe the sickness is real and therefore will not want to bother themselves with regards to fighting the spread of the disease.”

He said the situation could change if the Covid-19 task force in the northern region rises to the occasion to enforce the Covid19 law regardless of one’s ethnic, religious or political affiliation.

Arrested for Breaking Protocols

The Northern Regional Headquarters of the Ghana Police Service on 21st January 2021 arrested some twenty-six persons who defied the face masks wearing directive by President Nana Akufo-Addo.

President Nana Akufo-Addo, in his 22nd Covid-19 state of the nation address directed the Ghana Police Service to arrest all persons who flout the safety protocols including wearing face masks.

The directive by the president was to cut the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

The Northern Regional Police Command has resorted to stakeholder engagements. Its Crime Officer Supt. Baba Ananga revealed.

“REGSEC has spoken to church elders and the Muslim leadership with regards to the Covid issues, and the leadership promised to speak to their followers.”

Ghana’s present Covid-19 situation

Ghana’s confirmed cases as of 17th May 2021 stood at 93,333 with 783 deaths. Recoveries and discharged stood at 91,252 with 1,298 active cases.

Some 29 deaths have been recorded in the Northern region since 2020.

The region has a total case count of 1,654, with 1,625 recovered and discharged. It has no active case.

The writer is a Mentee under the Mobilizing Media to Fighting COVID-19 project by Journalist for Human Rights.

By: Prince Kwame Tamakloe – Rainbow Radio\Tamale.

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