To lock down or not to lock down?

Today, I’m sharing an insightful post from a friend concerning Ghana’s ability to lock down and suggestions for an ‘appropriate’ lockdown in the wake of COVID-19.


It’s a tough question, one that has generated lots of debate over the last couple of weeks. At 68 cases, we are facing a choice between more or less radical measures to better manage the spread of COVID-19.

Whatever we choose to do will have dire consequences on some population. We have only seen the start of the economic and health disaster (it will get worse before it gets better) in a few sectors/industries – in-class education, hospitality, travel and tourism, trade (imports and exports), public transport, airline, sports (includes sports betting), and entertainment. The vulnerable are feeling the pinch already – the unemployed, SMEs, employed people with no savings, and people with no access to credit, limited assets, and a good support network.

A major lockdown at this point seems inevitable. We’ve been walking down that path already since the government closed educational and religious institutions, and banned international travel and public gatherings. But how exactly should a lockdown in our context look like, to minimize the social and economic impact on the vulnerable in our society?

This is my attempt at a bit of advice. My approach will essentially be top-down and focused on the Greater Accra and Ashanti Regions for now: suspend/restructure non-essential government services first, suspend/restructure non-essential middle and upper-income activities next, then restructure general retail activities, and finally restructure lifestyles & essential services.

Stage 1. Suspend/Restructure Non-essential Government Services for 21 Days

(a) Close down all ministries, boards, agencies and authorities that don’t provide life or death and (very) essential services – NIA, EC, GNPC, NLA, NPRA, NYEP, NSS, DVLA, Refugee Board, SSNIT, Forestry Commission, GIPC,… you know the rest.
(b) Create an enforcement unit comprising the media, police, military, AMA, and KMA to enforce directives

Stage 2. Suspend/Restructure Non-essential Middle & Upper-income Services for 14 Days

(a) Suspend all internal/domestic flights
(b) For private companies with 25+ staff, make available Ayalolo buses to commute staff to/from pick up points from/to work if they can’t work from home

Photo:Daily Guide

(c) Aggregate eateries (all restaurants and chop bars) that provide delivery services and make this information public

Stage 3. Restructure Retail Activities for 14 Days

(a) Keep all health facilities (hospitals, clinics, CHPS compounds, pharmacies, drug stores) open
(b) Close the major markets and convert community football parks into markets (temporary sheds and canopies) for food retail only, with proper social distancing
(c) Close all hair and barbering salons, pubs, bars, cafes, and nightclubs
(d) Direct all eateries (restaurants, chop bars and food vans) to offer takeaway services only
(e) Suspend all private fundraising activities and unify these campaigns onto a single, transparent platform

Stage 4: Restructure Lifestyles & Essential Services

(a) Institute a curfew from 9pm to 6am
(b) Set up the currently vacant educational institutions as temporary homes for the homeless
(c) Move all health workers away from the general population into central accommodation for easier access to health facilities and their personal protection
(d) Postpone the December general election to next year so all can focus on the fight with our common enemy right now
(e) Close all trotro stations and intercity bus terminals

(f) Support our most-watched TV stations to offer better programming – entertainment and educational content that will keep people home

In conclusion, “a blow which is yours must be received with alacrity”.

Author: Foster Lartey


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