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Coronavirus in Ghana: On the web funerals, encounter masks and elections without the need of rallies


In the BBC’s collection of letters from African writers, journalist and former Ghana govt minister Elizabeth Ohene writes about the new normal – from how to maintain a socially distant election to attending on the net funerals.

Since the outbreak of Covid-19, we have appear to accept that our life have been turned upside down.

We have been studying to cope with issues no person had at any time dreamt about – like not hugging or shaking arms. Social distancing, self-isolation and quarantine have all turn into conditions of everyday use.

Universities have been closed, and mother and father are discovering anew just how substantially foodstuff expanding small children try to eat.

There are points we studiously steer clear of chatting about the mortuaries are whole, not from coronavirus fatalities (so much in Ghana, there have been 16 from the disorder) but the ban on public gatherings, which means we simply cannot have usual funerals.

Private burials are permitted but with no more than 25 folks and that truly is an unbearable encounter for most Ghanaians.

So, we are maintaining the bodies in the morgues in the hope that this dreadful nightmare will soon be about and the dead can be given befitting Ghanaian burials.

Funeral companies are heading hello-tech to abide by the new constraints. The services has the prescribed 25 or fewer people and the proceedings are streamed on the net. Quite a few individuals now sit at residence by their laptops and log on to be a part of the company.

If this development continues, it will totally subvert our funeral culture. I joined an online funeral past week dressed in a pair of denims and a T-shirt. No person attends a funeral dressed like that.

Now that we have absent by seven Sundays, together with Easter Sunday, devoid of church products and services, it is dawning on all of us that coronavirus is rather extraordinary.

Spiritual gatherings have been restricted since of Covid-19

We are into the holy month of Ramadan. Muslims have started off their fasting, with no the congregational prayers in the mosque that mark the breaking of the fast. Additional and a lot more of us now acknowledge that we are in unsettling times.

The cash Accra and its environs, and the second town Kumasi, were being put less than lockdown for a few weeks and we have emerged from that far too with the restriction on the movement of people today now lifted.

Frantic functions

At the centre of the overall Covid-19 practical experience has been President Nana Akufo-Addo. He dealt with the country on the night of 12 March to convey to us of the initially two situations of coronavirus in the nation.

He announced the ban on social gatherings, the closure of borders, the lockdown in the two metropolitan spots, and he enumerates the tally of verified conditions of bacterial infections.

How can I practise social distancing at operate?

There is an unspoken but uncomfortable reality that operates beneath all the frantic coronavirus routines in the place. We are owing to keep presidential and parliamentary elections on 7 December.

Elections are keenly contested below and campaigns are generally loud, chaotic and, of system, group-centred. Preparations were on a tight timetable and did not go away much room for everything to go wrong.

Poll options derailed

Then the virus struck and the first casualty was the Nationwide Identification Authority. It has not yet been able to complete supplying identification playing cards to every person previously mentioned the age of 16. Without the need of it, folks can not sign-up to vote.

The electoral commission wishes to compile a fresh voters sign up, but the opposition Nationwide Democratic Congress (NDC) is getting none of that and has sworn loudly that it will do every little thing it can to make sure it does not take place.

The fee had, in truth, prepared to commence the registration system extra than a week ago, but because all gatherings are banned, it appears to be stuck.

The lockdown in Ghana’s money Accra brought the metropolis to a standstill

On top of that, the two most important parties are gauging just about every other as the character of politicking has transformed with the advent of coronavirus.

No-one particular is aware if the people’s judgement is going to be based mostly typically on how the events and their candidates fare during this crisis.

The prospect of the ruling New Patriotic Occasion (NPP), President Nana Akufo-Addo, and the NDC applicant, former President John Mahama, know every single other really nicely. This is heading to be the third time they will be facing each individual other.

The NPP must have performed primaries in about 150 constituencies in which it has sitting MPs very last December but postponed them to April – only for them to be derailed by lockdown steps. The candidates simply cannot marketing campaign, at least not in the way we know.

Bash officers are in a bind, will they be ready to maintain primaries and how will they manage the tensions that occur with internal elections if there is no time to heal wounds?

The NDC has most of its parliamentary candidates but its presidential candidate would have wanted to announce his choice of running mate at a major rowdy celebration – not at an occasion dominated by social distancing.

And how do you campaign when a malignant virus free in the land and there does not look to be any hunger for partisan arguments?

The president has resolved the place 8 times considering the fact that the outbreak and the full country listens to him.

He will make a speech and aspect of it goes viral: “We know how to deliver the financial state back again to lifestyle. What we do not know is how to provide people again to lifetime.”

The president suggests the virus does not have a political color, this is not the time for politicking, and ideal now we must defeat our prevalent enemy. He is having a good pandemic.

The NDC commenced its Covid-19 politicking on a dodgy observe when its basic secretary, Asiedu Nketia, expressed uncertainties about the existence of the virus in the nation.

When Mr Nketia declared the initially two conditions of Covid-19 and positioned a ban on social gatherings and political pursuits, he said the virus was a massive hoax, and element of a grand structure by the president to rig the elections.

But the NDC quickly regained its poise and the celebration set up its very own Covid-19 committee and Mr Mahama commenced issuing his possess daily bulletins on the development of the virus.

He had a electronic discussion the other day, which sounded suspiciously like an handle to the country.

Just one week into the lockdown, tempers started to fray, small companies ended up feeling the pinch, the daily wage earners ended up in distress and the verified situations of Covid-19 ended up increasing.

An NDC MP accused governing administration officers of inquiring the vulnerable for NPP bash membership cards in advance of getting offered meals.

‘Father Christmas’

A movie was released of Mr Mahama distributing food items parcels in a lousy suburb. He was correctly clad in his confront mask and advised the recipients he realized they were struggling and could really feel their pain.

The president announced a raft of interventions to ease the economic difficulties introduced on by the pandemic the governing administration would select up 50% of everybody’s electrical power bill for the following three months, h2o would be cost-free during that interval, and well being staff would not pay taxes.

Very last Sunday, Mr Akufo-Addo announced the government was about to commence a substantial healthcare facility making programme. He mentioned the pandemic experienced uncovered just how badly underserved we were being with hospitals and he would establish and equip 94 new ones within the next year.

We experienced not found the president as a Father Xmas just before but there he was dishing out goodies. For the NDC, it is difficult when it desires to defeat him in elections.

Considering that no person has any strategy when we will get rid of this virus and there are no provisions in the structure to postpone presidential elections, we are owning to function about the possibility of keeping the polls with Covid-19 close to us.

South Korea did it and we might have to do it as nicely, socially distanced and with our masks.

Elizabeth Ohene is a journalist and a former Minister of State for Tertiary Education in Ghana.


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