Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church of Ghana, Most Rev. Dr. Paul Kwabena Boafo has backed the punishment against persons who flout the law on mandatory face mask-wearing in the country.
Critics say the up to 60,000-cedi fine and or maximum 10 years sentence stipulated in the executive instrument (E.I) 164 for persons who refuse to wear face mask in public is too harsh and ought to be reviewed.
Per the law, anyone found guilty of not wearing face mask that completely covers his nose and mouth, faces either a fine of not less than 12,000 cedis and not more than 60,000 cedis or a minimum of four years in jail or a maximum of 10 years.
For some critics of the law which came into effect from June 15, non-custodial sentence should have been the best punishment particularly so because Ghana’s prisons are already overpopulated.
But for the head of the Methodist Church in Ghana, “the lawmakers knew what was right for us…this is about life; it is about our own good.
He argued that until one flouts the law, there is nothing like the sanctions being too harsh, saying “It will not be punitive if you obey, if you obey, then you go scot-free”
Most Rev. Dr Boafo said this Wednesday while responding to questions from journalists when he addressed them on the measures taken by the Methodist Church Ghana so far to safeguard the lives of their congregation against the deadly novel coronavirus.
He said those who feel the sanctions are harsh should just obey the law.
“If it is wrong or harsh, all you need to do is to obey and it will not be harsh for you,” he advised.
In his view, the current sanction regime will deter people the people he said have become recalcitrant, to wear their face masks knowing the implications of not wearing the protective gear.
“…some of our people are so recalcitrant that they will not want to wear the mask. It is for your own life; for me if what they will do [punishment] will let people do it [wear mask], let us go by it and then we will protect ourselves,” he stated.
The whole motive of the law, he said, is to protect people from contracting the pandemic.
“We want you alive that is why we will not say that it is harsh. Let us follow; if you follow it, it is not harsh,” he advised.
The Church’s interventions
Following the easing of restrictions to allow churches to open, the Methodist Church contracted Ghana’s waste management giant, Zoomlion Ghana Limited, to disinfect all its churches and mission houses across the country.
Most of the about 4,000 Methodist Churches in the country have now been disinfected against covid-19 by Zoomlion Ghana Limited which is playing a critical role in Ghana’s fight against the pandemic.
Most Rev. Dr Boafo said he has been impressed by the work done so far by the waste management experts, saying “We can say that Zoomlion has done a very good job for us… we have pictures of what they did, the Bishops furnished us with all these”.
“We have to go through this so that we could also make sure that people will not come in with any fears, anxiety that they were coming to contract the disease. It was done with the mindset that people can come to the chapel without any fear …that they were coming in to contract the disease,” he explained.
He said although the Church believes in God, they will not sit aloof and say God will take care of them, noting what has confronted the world requires that people take precautions.
“We could have said that we are faith-based, we believe in God, God is in control, God takes care of everything, so there is no need for this disinfection. No, this is the way to go about life so let us follow it,” he urged.
He added: “We can say that for the Methodist Church or the people called Methodist, we have complied with all the protocols that needed to be done for our chapel to reopen and we are following the [other] protocols”.
Greater Accra Regional General Manager of Zoomlion, Ernest Morgan Acquah said “So far we have done almost all the churches and we added their mission houses to it and all the facilities around the churches we did them as well”.
He said although a lot has been done in the fight against the pandemic by way of disinfection, “there is more room for improvement”.
“As we go round we realised that some people are recalcitrant with regards to wearing of face mask and social distancing,” he observed.
He said with the reopening of schools for final year students from the basic to tertiary level, there is the need to continue observing the covid-19 protocols particularly on social distancing and wearing of facemasks “for our own good and it will protect us all”