Godfred Opare Djan Writes: Life Before And During Lockdown

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The outbreak of the dreaded coronavirus, also called COVID-19, could best be described as incredible consternation as it took the whole world by surprise.

COVID- 19 first started in far away China in the latter part of 2019 and majority of the world thought and felt that it was a problem for China at the time.

A whole city in China, Wuhan, was in crisis, yet not many saw the havoc that COVID- 19 could wreak on the whole world and before the awareness came, the sky was already coming down.

Ghana recorded its first case of the virus around March 12, 2020, almost three months after China recorded its first case. Ghana and China have lots in common.

After the first case, single figures of the cases started mounting and the country started recording double figures and quickly hit the hundreds.

The President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, addressed the nation for the first time on the COVID-19 on March 15, 2020. At the time, Ghana had recorded six cases.

As part of the quick measures, the President ordered the shutdown of schools, both public and private, and at all levels effective March 16, 2020.

Other measures were also spelt out by the President in his March 15, 2020 address, all in the name of containing the spread of the coronavirus disease.

The President directed that Ghana’s borders, both land and airport, be shut down effectively midnight of Sunday March 22, 2020 for two weeks to help combat the deadly virus. Travellers who arrived before the closure of date will undergo the 14 days’ quarantine and test.

Ghana would continue to record more cases of the COVID-19, forcing the Ghana Medical Association (GMA) to call on the President to lockdown Ghana. The Ghana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) also added its voice for Ghana to be locked down.

The President at a meeting at the Jubilee House raised lots of issues and permutations on the lockdown.

Finally, parts of Ghana, namely Greater Accra, Greater Kumasi and Awutu Senya areas, were partially locked after President Akufo-Addo’s third address. Ghana’s cases had shot up to 152. The partial lockdown commenced on March 30, 2020 for two weeks.    

Days Before Lockdown

Days before lockdown were very interesting with markets in the partial lockdown affected areas witnessing unprecedented presence of buyers, forcing sellers to offer wares at cutthroat prices.

So choked were markets that there were fears that people would contract the virus from those places and to their homes.

Groceries shops had their share of the sales with pharmacy shops recording several million sales of hand sanitizers and Vitamin C tablets, as those are two effective ways of protection against the virus.

The sales of Veronica Buckets and hand-washing bowls shot up astronomically days before the lockdown. On the morning of March 28, a medium-size Veronica Bucket at the Industrial Area in Accra sold at GHC80.00 but by mid-day that day the price had shot up to GHC120.00.

Prices of other essentials went up, as if there was no tomorrow. Market centres at Accra, Madina, Mallam Atta at Accra New Town, Dome, Amasaman, Kasoa, among other places, were choked as residents who were to be affected by the lockdown went out to secure foodstuffs.

The usual smiling and marketing skills of the country’s market women were thrown to the dogs as the sellers quoted figures that were senseless, but because of the lockdown, buyers had no option but to buy.

Business was brisk for the market women to the extent that a seller at the Dome market, interacting with newsmen, said that ‘’It is my wish that the President will create every three months for us to make money.’’

As the market women were in jubilant mood, other people in different small-scale business were brooding over what would happen in the lockdown.

Just hours after the announcement of the lockdown by the President, the sluggish mannerism of majority of Ghanaians turned into fast movements as everyone wanted something to be done before the lockdown.

Life In Lockdown

The partial lockdown started as announced by the President and life in Greater Accra became different. Those who have never witnessed anything of the sort wondered how it was going and truly it was something else, as movements were restricted for majority of people.

Streets were empty; the markets centres that were choked days before the lockdown were empty. The police and the military had taken over the streets of Greater Accra, Greater Kumasi and the Awutu Senya area.

Movements were restricted as the security men mounted road blocks to ensure strict adherence to the lockdown, although it was partial.

The first two days were cordial until some recalcitrant Ghanaians started flouting the lockdown regulations with impunity, making the security men angry in the process.

Although, there were excesses on the part of the security, especially the Military, they could not be faulted too much because of the reckless manner certain persons decided to flout the lockdown.

The markets were operating within the lockdown period as usual but, on this occasion, the prices of goods had stabilized with some of the perishable items going bad because the mad rush to shop was no more.

Organizations and individuals who were exempted from the partial lockdown abused the exemption, but the security men and women could not do anything about the situation because of the ‘Do You Know Me’ syndrome that has destroyed moral fibre of Ghana.

In lockdown, social media became the ultimate winner, as people took solace in that; although they were locked, they could still get closer to the world with ease. People, who otherwise would not check on others, had no option but spent the time to be checking on others.

Family and friendship bonds were strengthened as absentee parents were now locked with their children; parents fully became aware of the attitudes of their wards, and one thing that became clear was the importance of teachers and house-helps.

Telecommunication companies became the ultimate winners because of the high demand for data by people who have been locked.

Directives from Government to the telcos not to charge on certain amounts of money transfers were not adhered to, as customers had to pay for money transfers, irrespective of the amounts involved.

Demand, requests and pleas for Mobile Money (MOMO) became high and living expenses became extremely huge in the lockdown period.

The nation’s ‘most friendly’ state agency, Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG), became the public enemy, as power was not stable in some parts of Accra and Tema, which experienced power outages like never before.

ECG would not even bother to explain why the outages and offer apologies to the numerous Ghanaians who had been in the lockdown

After the first two weeks elapsed, the President extended the lockdown by another one week, with explanation that there was the need to trace persons who had come into contact with persons infected with the coronavirus.

The President announced certain critical measures that would inure to the benefit of Ghanaians, especially the poor and vulnerable.

The Ghanaian saw wisdom in the extension, but the recalcitrant ones would not simply observe the ‘Stay Home’ instruction. Various reasons were offered to the security personnel just to move out.

On The Lighter Side          

 Exercises, especially aerobics, became the daily routine of some people who were bored staying at home. Some exercised in the mornings and evenings.

The affluent, who otherwise would not purchase porridge (Koko) and Waakye, would now queue with the ‘ordinary’ Ghanaian because they were afraid of their food.

The vulnerable and poor who reside in uncompleted buildings in plush communities became friends to the rich and affluent because the big men and women, who otherwise would not talk to them because they were always in their expensive vehicles, would engage them in conversations because they were bored.

The noted Ghanaian hospitality played up, with various donations to hospitals and other health institutions becoming very common just to help the health posts to deliver in the COVID-19 era.

What was astonishing was the competing media blitz that came with various donations from individuals and corporate organizations that claimed that they were helping the government, the poor and the vulnerable.

Churches that were hit with the ‘Social Distancing Order’ devised other means of propagating the Word of God through various traditional platforms and social media.

What became the interesting debate on the activities of the churches is the decision of some of them to activate MOMO numbers for the congregation to pay their tithes and church offerings to those numbers.

The desperate move to make money from the church members in the period that they have been locked down made the assertion by some people that some churches were just business entities to gain currency.

Lessons From Lockdown    

Lots of things and events took place during the lockdown period, but what was extra visible was the indiscipline of the Ghanaian, as many people found it difficult to adhere to the lockdown and disrespected the whole process with impunity.

The security personnel that were on the streets to enforce the lockdown, although did a yeoman’s job, some of them went overboard in enforcing the order, an indication that there should be orientation for the police and the military on constant basis for them to know how to handle the civilian public.

Parents now understand that children’s upbringing is a shared responsibility and not the duty of the teacher to instil discipline in children.

Parents now understand that stories from their children against house-helps could not be entirely true, and now appreciate the work of helpers on one side and the attitude of their children on the other side.

The rich, well-to-do and the affluent now appreciate the importance of the poor and vulnerable ones and how to see them as ‘humans’ and not as people with no value.

Further, government now fully understands the situation of homeless in Ghana and now fully acknowledges the fact that poverty is real among the larger segment of Ghanaians.

In addition to that, the political gimmicks in the name of seeking the welfare of Ghanaians have been exposed in the COVID-19 era, and the onus is now on the actors in the political game to change from their wicked and dishonest ways and start doing things right.

The greatest of all the lessons from the lockdown is the importance of freedom, as the whole period was more or less saw the curtailment the most important of all freedoms, the ‘freedom of movement.’

Be that as it may, it was a necessary evil to deal with deadly bug, COVID-19, which is wreaking havoc on the world, making the whole universe to be on the standstill.

Let Us Stay At Home; There Is Nothing To Do In Town, Let Us Observe Social Distance,

Let Us Wash Our Hands Under Running Water,

Let Us Make Use Of Hand Sanitizers,

Let Us Wear Face Masks,

Let Us Be Each Other’s Keeper,

We Shall Overcome!

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