The Ghana Medical Association (GMA) has described as worrying, the increasing violation for COVID-19 safety protocols in the country. The medical practitioners fear this could lead to a spike of the virus especially in the wake of a warning by the World Health Organization (WHO) to some African countries to prepare for what appears to be a new surge in cases.
The caution by GMA comes at the back of total disregard for the safety protocols during the final funeral rites of the former Chief Executive officer of the Forestry Commission of Ghana, Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie known in the political circle as Sir John.
Physical distancing was absent and only few people wore face mask at the funeral grounds held at Sakora Wonoo in the Kwabre East Municipality of the Ashanti region.
“It was a shock to observe that a nation like Ghana struggling to vaccinate its population will permit such a potential super spreader event to take place and be attended by top government functionaries including the President and the Vice President of the Republic,” a statement by Ghana Medical Association said.
The development generated public outcry with more people calling on the law enforcement agencies to apply sanctions under the Imposition of Restriction Act to deter others from flouting the safety protocols. The Minority Caucus in Parliament also demanded an apology from President Akufo-Addo for breaking the safety protocols.
The Act, 2020 (Act 1012) is the primary legal instrument in the Government of Ghana’s fight against the Coronavirus Pandemic.
“A person who breaches a restriction may end up with a fine of between 1000 to 5000 penalty units (i.e. GHS 12,000- GHS 60,000). In addition to that, a person who breaches the restriction may also face a jail sentence between four and ten years”.
Per the Act, a restriction imposed may not exceed three months; and the President has the power to either shorten or extend the duration of the restriction for not more than one month at a time.
The 3-month timeline according to the Head of Public Affairs for Ghana Police Service, Superintendent Sheila Abayie-Buckman, is the reason the police is unable to effectively implement the restriction order.
Speaking at a webinar organized by the Ghana Journalists Association on growing disregard for safety protocols, Superintendent Abayie-Buckman noted “the fact that the Act was assented by the President in March 2020 and you consider police powers in enforcing the protocols, then it means every three months there was supposed to be an Executive Instrument for the enforcement of the COVID-19 protocols by the police. But right now if I see you not wearing the nose mask and I arrest you, what charge will I have to prefer against you and under which law? Police powers is about what the law authorizes”, she said.
The Ghana Medical Association is not happy about the revelation by the police.
“I’ll say it is rather unfortunate if that is the case because we are not out of the woods yet. There is a potential of going into a third wave and we need to be careful. If the law has expired, the President should renew it to enable the police enforce compliance of the safety protocols”, General Secretary of GMA, Justice Yankson stated.
As at June 12, Ghana has 53 new cases, 1,228 active cases, 92,806 recoveries/discharge, 94,824 cumulative cases and 790 deaths
The webinar was supported by the Journalist for Human Rights, a media charity organization based in Canada under the Mobilizing Media to Fighting COVID-19 project.