Accra — Ghana has lifted a three-week partial lockdown in major cities over the coronavirus - one of the first African countries to ease such restrictions. Some Ghanaians say they fear the restrictions are being lifted too soon, while struggling shop owners and daily wage workers were already back at work as the lift took effect Monday.
President Nana Akufo-Addo announced an end to the partial lockdown in a televised address late Sunday.
Akufo-Addo said the nation is not letting down its guard against the pandemic.
Public gatherings are still banned, schools remain closed and social distancing measures continue. The borders will remain closed for a further two weeks to stop the virus from entering the country.
He said Ghana was taking action to protect its people from the virus was but using an approach which suits the country.
“We shall be nimble and adapt as the situation changes. We will tailor our solutions to our unique social, economic and cultural conditions. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, but I pledge to you that government will do whatever is required, in our particular circumstances, to safeguard the lives of our people, and keep our economy going,” said the president.
Reaction to the speech was mixed. Many on social media say the move is premature. Ghana has seen more than 1,000 cases of coronavirus to date, although the death toll has been low, with only nine fatalities.
Ernest Agyei Badu, who sells television sets in Accra, said he is pleased the lockdown is over. He had spent the time in Kumasi, which was also in partial lockdown.
On Monday morning, he took a bus back to the capital so he could return to work.
“There were a lot of issues. I had imported a lot of TVs and they were all locked up in the warehouse, and nothing was going on, so I personally didn't support the lockdown. I have workers; how am I going to pay them when we are not selling? So, it was a big problem,” he said.
To try to relieve suffering from the lockdown and ongoing pandemic, Ghana is providing food for the vulnerable and free or subsidized electricity. It has also borrowed one billion dollars from the International Monetary Fund to help close the financing gap created by the pandemic.
William Nyarko is the executive director of the Africa Center for International Law and Accountability, a non-partisan research group. He said the impact of the lockdown is significant as Ghana’s economy is largely informal, and people rely on daily wages.
Nyarko said he would have preferred incremental steps in lifting the lockdown to avoid further spread of the virus.
“An incremental approach would have been that he would lift the restrictions in phases like he did when he was doing a partial lockdown, so for example, he could have lifted the restrictions for two weeks and then would be monitoring to assess how things were going.”
As the streets return to life in Accra, Ghana’s government has said it will keep a clear focus on the situation and continue testing contacts of positive cases.
So far, it has traced 86,000 contacts and tested 68,591 of them, of which 1.5%, have come back as positive.