- On April 3, 2020
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Source: Graphic Online News | 28 March 2020
People in some communities in Accra are grappling with the directive to adhere to the prescribed social (physical) distancing protocols recommended to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
A visit by the Daily Graphic to some parts of Accra, including Old Fadama, Nima, some parts of Madina and Adabraka, revealed that the prescribed social (physical) distancing protocols were far from reality, as many residents of those communities admitted that they were constrained by their current living situation.
At the Anyaa and the Madina markets, for instance, many people were seen going about their businesses very close to one another, while the space between traders and buyers in transactions was close.
“We live in this area and have barely gone anywhere outside the community and so we don’t think we have contracted the infection to pass it on to one another. Coming together to watch television is our way of entertainment. Besides, it’s too warm inside our rooms and so we’re out here till we feel sleepy and retire to bed,” a group of men who sat closely by one another watching television at a drinking bar at Adabraka told the Daily Graphic.
“I have heard about the social (physical) distancing and the other things I need to do to keep safe. Unfortunately, I can’t do that while selling my foodstuffs. So, for now, I use a nose mask and apply the sanitiser more,” a foodstuffs seller at the Anyaa Market explained.
In most of the communities, it was observed that people hardly observed the physical distancing protocol and hardly used the hand sanitiser as they transacted business and money changed hands between traders and buyers.
Many children who are at home due to the closure of schools were seen playing together, pulling and pushing as they tried to pick the footballs with which they were playing.
Use of public facilities
A food vendor at Old Fadama, Ms Shafatu Muniru, who is a resident of the community, indicated that she shared a single room with seven other ladies in a house that had no bathroom or toilet, for which reason they relied on a public toilet and bathroom, even in the wake of the covid-19 pandemic.
“This is how we live our lives here; there are limited facilities for us. Our only option is to rely on public toilets and bathrooms, even in times like these, since we do not have our own facilities.
“Through the educational campaign, we have heard about the dangers, but we have no choice; we still have to queue to use the facilities,” she added.
Another resident of Old Fadama, Ms Rita Akumey, said there was the need for information on the pandemic to get to the communities in their local dialects, since most of the communication she had heard was in English.
That, she said, would ensure that members of the community understood all the protocols and prescribed precautionary measures.
She added that although she was aware of the social (physical) distancing protocol, she did not know the prescribed distance, for which reason she sleeps with two of her siblings on the same mattress.
Many people said it was near impossible to keep the physical distance, as it had always been their way of life to mingle, adding that it might take a while for that to sink in.
At Nima, several groups of young men were seen sitting together and chatting.
Some said since the ban was for gatherings of 25 people or more, they usually came together in groups of 20 to pray and then chat the night away.
“We are friends and siblings and so we don’t think we have the infection to spread it. We do wash our hands and use the sanitiser, but I don’t think we can really observe this social or physical distancing thing. It is our way of life,” Musa Abdul-Karim said, as he pulled out an almost empty bottle of hand sanitiser from his pocket.
At the Anyaa, Madina and Makola markets, the Daily Graphic observed that nothing had changed with regard to movement, as people moved in and out in a hurry, without much thought of keeping their distance from one another.
While transacting business, traders and buyers were seen standing close to one another
Buyers who were entering the market walked and chatted together, with little space among them.
When the Daily Graphic spoke to some traders, they were of the view that they had no alternative to transact their business, as more often their buyers had to come closer to their wares in order to choose what they wanted before bargaining began.
A trader, Ms Joyce Osei, told the Daily Graphic: “We try as much as possible to observe some interval among us when we are selling, but it’s hard, so rather we make sure that we sanitise our hands and wash them regularly to help make up for the physical distancing we are not able to maintain.”
Another trader, Ms Diana Anum, said physical distancing was very impossible to be maintained in the market,” adding that the spaces between stalls would not allow it.
“If we really want to observe physical distancing then it will mean that some of us (sellers) would have to stay at home, while others sell, something more like a shift system in the market. If that is not done, we cannot observe the distancing religiously,” she added.
Some drivers of commercial mini- buses, also known as ‘trotro’, admitted that they were aware of the physical distancing but were not strictly enforcing it, as it would have a negative toll on their business.
They explained that observing it would require them to reduce the number of passengers they carried in order to maintain the two-metre distance, which would affect their daily sales.
“We are only believing God to rescue us from this situation because we are already struggling to meet the targets set by our car owners, and with this virus, we cannot reduce the number of passengers,” a trotro driver who calls himself Driver Kojo said.
Passengers in the trotros sat close by one another and only a few cleaned their seats with sanitiser.
Meanwhile, the conductors or mates, as they are popularly referred to, had sanitiser.