By: Alexander Afram
The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has taken the entire world by surprise, particularly in this era of enhanced economic, scientific, and technological advances. While the outbreak started in China’s city of Wuhan in late 2019, little did we think that the deadly virus will ravage the entire world so rapidly, to the extent of threatening to ground the entire global economy. In the wake of the rapid spread of the virus, and the absence of a treatment or vaccine, what has become commonly recommended as most effective to halt the spread is ‘’lockdown”, asking people to stay home. From Wuhan, the origin of the virus, to Italy, Spain, UK, US, South Africa, Rwanda, Nigeria, among other countries where the virus is prevalent, most businesses have closed down while citizens are ordered to stay at home for weeks to curtail further spread of the virus. This has had a significant toll on social protection systems in developing countries, including Ghana, which is also gradually reeling under the burden of the disease.
In Ghana, the government announced a two-week partial lockdown in Accra and Kumasi and their contiguous districts on 27th March which was further extended for another week with the hope of containing the spread of the virus to other parts of the country that were unaffected at the time of the lockdown. Ghana’s lockdown was lifted citing enhanced testing capacity and untold economic hardship on poor citizens. Other restrictive measures remain in place, including a ban on all social gatherings and the introduction of social distancing protocols nationwide. This piece argues that the current social protection and safety net systems in Ghana are inadequate to protect the needy and vulnerable in the face of a lockdown. More comprehensive and targeted social reforms are needed in the post-COVID-19 period to effectively protect the poor and vulnerable and to address similar emergency occurrences in the future.
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