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Opinions Fri, 3 Apr 2020

A 'corona' appeal to the President

Hello Mr. President, I thank you for the resilience, leadership, and support to the citizenry in these hard times. I also wish you a happy 76th birthday although not a good time for celebration.

From distant New York, I have observed the seriousness with which you are dealing with this pandemic. From a communication and education standpoint, your administration has been superb.

I believe, your decision for a partial and subsequent total lockdown was inevitable given the experience from a country like Italy. I also hope that this directive will help reduce infection rates and fatalities in Ghana going forward.

However, the 1000-dollar question that rings in the minds of many Ghanaians is; HOW WILL A TOTAL LOCKDOWN IN GHANA LOOK LIKE? ESPECIALLY WHEN OUR ECONOMIC ACTIVITIES HAVE MOSTLY DEPENDED ON MOBILITY AND CASH. Even if MoMo is 100% subscribed, online marketing, transaction, and delivery is not conventional with most Ghanaians. It has always been like Daddy goes to work and mother goes to the market to get foodstuff for evening dinner kind of life in Ghana.

The situation can even be worse for our market women who solely rely on profits from daily sales to feed an entire family. Even for many Ghanaians, work from home is not even possible given the way we have traditionally run our economy on paper trails with very little to no online platforms.

For the IT device ownership rate in Ghana, the least said about it the better. I, therefore, wish to make a passionate appeal to you Mr. President to take the following measures to mitigate potential hardship caused by future total lockdowns.

Basic needs

First and foremost, in times like this, we must remember Maslow's theory (pyramid) of needs. Basic necessities for survival are crucial in times like this and that is exactly what New York is doing to mitigate a looming disaster.

Remember when cases were reported in NY, no one was rushing for clothes, iPhones, iPad and the rest. Instead, toiletries and food items became a hot cake. This means we must allow fundamental life support services to run and although I know you granted some exceptions, more need to be done.

Mr. President, can the Food and Agric ministry innovatively start some food delivery centers to affected urban households? “urban” in the sense that for now we can be assured that potential hotspot areas will not affect rural areas where farming is also ubiquitous. We don’t want to be fighting corona to end up been starved to death by hunger.

Ghana may not be in a position to be dolling out free cash to citizens as the US is doing but we can channel our own funds into free food delivery to the affected areas.

•Mr. President, can we refund and resource our local farmers to continue to ensure that the food delivery chain continues to run?

•Mr. President, can we put a hold on utility bill payments while ensuring a constant 24/7 supply for water and electricity? Can telecommunications networks will provide free calling with some data packages in this trying time?

Secondary needs:

•Mr. President, can we start to resuscitate the erstwhile Kufuor administration’s televised distance learning? This can be particularly helpful to our final year students preparing for major examinations. Let us put young teachers who are tech-savvy to tutor remotely. In times like this, I remember a famous line in American pop music which goes like "......what doesn’t kill you make you stronger…..” Let us learn from the ways of the virus we seek to kill. It will change its form and DNA to survive adverse conditions and so must we change our approach to survive a total lockdown.

•Mr. President, can we grant a temporal universal free health insurance to all citizens and foreigners at these times. Trust me it will be in the national interest and protect lives for the short term.

•Finally Mr. President, can we put our community health nurses and clinical counselors to good use by stationing mobile stand-by clinics within communities to assist with non-corona related health issues.

Now to the citizenry

Total Lockdowns can be very stressful with many psychological problems. I am already in 3rd week of lockdown in NY and I can tell you that the experience is not pleasant at all. However, there are some things you can do.

1.Your phone will become your best pal for now but close your ears to fake news on social media. Fear-mongering can kill you even before the coronavirus reaches you.

2.Subscribe to free online courses and MOOCS, if you are fortunate to have an internet connection to learn some skills

3.Look on the positive side, think about business ideas and the general way forward for post-corona life.

4.Call relatives and old-time friends to get in touch, trust me it helps ease some tension and makes u conscious that you are not in this alone.

Remember that what does not kill you will make you stronger. New York will survive and Ghana shall surely survive. Amen.
Columnist: Daniel Anini Baah (New York)