Ghana’s Minister for the Interior, Mr Ambrose Dery, has described as “unnecessary” the mad rush for food, provisions and gas on Saturday following President Nana Akufo-Addo’s announcement of a partial lockdown of Greater Accra and Kumasi as part of measures to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus which has, so far, killed four people out of the one hundred thirty-seven cases, of which two have recovered.
In his national address on Friday night, the President said: “This, in essence, means that everyone resident in these areas must stay at home for the next two weeks”.
“However, if you must go out, it must only be to get essential items such as food, medicine, water, undertake banking transactions or to use public toilet facilities. But as much as possible, stay at home”.
“There shall be”, the President noted, “during this period, no intercity movement of vehicles and aircraft for private or commercial purposes for the areas affected by the restrictive measures except for vehicles and aircraft providing essential services and those carrying cargo. Riders of motorbikes are not allowed to carry any additional person and all intracity passenger vehicles such as trotros and taxis must reduce the number of passengers in order to observe appropriate social distancing and hygiene protocols. Additionally, all commercial vehicle stations shall observe appropriate hygiene protocols and social distancing”.
He also said markets are to ensure social distancing and enhanced hygiene protocols.
“In any event, only persons involved in the food value chain can operate in the markets during this period”.
However, he noted, “individuals and institutions providing the following services shall be exempted from the restrictions: members of the Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary; production, distribution and marketing of food, beverages, pharmaceuticals, medicine, paper and plastic packages; environmental and sanitation activities; staff of VALCO, road and railway construction workers, mining workers, fisherfolk, members of the security agencies assigned lawful duties, staff of ECG, GWCL, telcos, e-commerce and digital service providers and staff of fuel stations”.
Even though the President left out the media as one of those exempted from the lockdown, his Minister of Information, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah later tweeted that the media is exempted.
Speaking to journalists after his tour of some parts of the national capital on Saturday, Mr Dery said: “I’ve just gone round a few places today and there appears to be some misunderstanding about some of the things [the President said]. The rush to buy things, the rush to buy food is totally unnecessary because the measures have made it possible that you can go to the market to buy food and that wherever food is sold, would be open. So, the rush before the deadline is totally unnecessary and a misunderstanding”.
“The second thing I observed this morning going round just as a security observation is that some banks that normally open on Saturdays are closed and banks are also exempted. I met people who told me: ‘We normally come here; yesterday my salary hit the account after 5 pm yet I cannot get my money’, that again is unnecessary.
“Then the observation the security has made is that, filling stations, gas stations are unnecessarily crowded. First of all, they will remain open and secondly, it’s a dangerous thing to go with that crowd because it could cause fires.
“With the open-air markets we are allowing only foodstuffs to be sold and, therefore, non-foodstuffs will not be sold, creating more space and, therefore, the social distancing is going to be possible and hygiene will be observed”, he noted.