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7 April 2020

Covid-19 Voices from the field: Ghana

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Ghana’s first case of COVID-19 pandemic was recorded on March 12 and the President of Ghana has since declared a partial lockdown covering 2 regions and the borders have been closed since March 30.

The government’s directives also come with restrictions on public gatherings and movements. However, the government has hinted at a possible review of these measures in the coming weeks depending on the outcome of the contact tracing exercise and the voluntary testing of people that currently ongoing.

The restrictions have limited the right to education as schools have been closed and services at churches and mosques have been suspended indefinitely. There are also some guidelines on social distancing and the security agencies have been tasked to enforce social distancing in buses, the markets, and other public places.

The largest impact is the restrictions of movements, as Ghana is under a partial lockdown with the exception of essential services providers and its borders remain closed.

Some cultural and social rights, such as funerals, have been restricted and only a maximum of 25 people will be allowed to gather for private burials. Any form of gathering for business conferencing and workshops have been suspended, while the majority of public workers have been asked to stay home. Most companies have asked their staff to stay home and with some threating to lay-off staff. Businesses in the services industry, such as hotels and restaurants, have laid off some good numbers of their staff. Most of the financial institutions have also hinted at a possible downsizing, the majority of their staff have been asked to work from home and are called to come to the office premises as and when to see to critical issues only.

The key business groups affected by the restrictions out of the COVID-19 pandemic are the micro, small and medium scale businesses.

This has been a great concern to members of various business associations and policymakers. The government, in collaboration with other agencies, like the National Board for Small Scale Industries and selected banks, have put in place a six hundred million cedis (GHS 600 million) as soft loans to cushion micro, small and medium scale businesses. The loan scheme is expected to be paid over a two-year period and with a one-year moratorium. The vulnerable in the society whose livelihoods have been affected by the restrictions are being provided with hot meals daily by the Gender and Social Welfare Ministry.

The government has announced a GHS 1 billion Coronavirus Alleviation Programme that will be funded from the Ghana Stabilisation Fund while the Finance Minister is seeking the support of parliament to amend relevant laws to lower the cap of the stabilisation fund from $300 million to $100 million. This will enable the government to use the excess funds to bridge the gap created by the economic impact of the pandemic. The government has also established the COVID -19 National Trust Fund – which has so far received some GHS 8.7 million in donations from the private sector – and has absorbed water usage utility bills for all Ghanaians for the next three months.

The World Bank is expected to approve a $35 million (cedi equivalent) to support Ghana fight the COVID -19 pandemic.