The Programmes Manager of Friends of the Nation (FoN), Mr Kyei Kwadwo Yamoah, has said the government must design a special restrictions on social distancing for the fishing community as part of additional measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 in the country.
Across the three coastal regions, he said an observation made by a FoN fact-finding mission showed that the fisher folks were not obeying the protocols on the novel coronavirus, a situation which was likely to defeat efforts to curb the spread of the virus.
"Social distancing needs to be enforced at all fish landing sites. Especially, now that the other three coastal regions (Volta, Central and Western regions) have recorded positive cases of COVID-19," Mr Yamoah who was part of the fact finding mission said in a telephone interview with the Graphic Business on April 13.
Ghana chose for itself a unique 'lockdown' suited to its circumstances as the country announces stricter measures to contain and halt the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic across its cities.
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo who announced the imposition of the Ghana-suitable measures, said the country was not going to copy blindly, what other countries were doing as there was no common solution to the problem.
The measures affected communities in Accra, Tema, Kasoa and Kumasi, which the President said have been identified by the Ghana Health Service as the “hotspots” of the infections.
Under the lockdown, fisher folks alongside some essential service providers such as members of the executive, legislature and the judiciary, production, distribution and marketing of food, beverages, pharmaceuticals, medicine, paper and plastic packages, and staff of fuel stations were exempted.
Although exempted these essential service providers are expected to take keen steps to ensure social distancing, put on their facemasks, constantly wash their hands under running water and apply hand sanitisers periodically.
Need to restrict movement
However an observation made by the Friends of the Nation shows that most fisher folks across the three coastal regions were not observing social distancing.
During the visit to the various fishing landing sites, Mr Yamoah explained that the team realised that although the fisher folks were aware of the protocols they had not put in place adequate measures to observe them.
"The strange thing is that some fisher folks have the wrong perception that if they swim in the sea, the salt in the sea will kill the coronavirus in and around them," he said.
He said the team also found that the fisher folks had still not taken steps to reduce number of crew members on the vessels, against the President's directive on transportation.
"These fisher folks are not practicing social distancing on their various canoes. When we enquired they said in the nature of their work it makes it difficult to practise social distancing," he said.
Another observation, he said was also made was that when a vessel arrive at the landing sites most of the women rush towards the vessel without consideration to the containment protocols.
"When we asked, they said they can not afford a nose mask or a hand sanitiser to protect themselves from the coronavirus," he noted.
For this reason, he stated that the government must intervene with a special restrictions on social distancing for the fishing community in order to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Friends of the Nation, in collaboration with CARE and Oxfam in Ghana, is the implementer of Far Ban Bo, a fisheries governance project funded by the European Union (EU).
It is designed to help address the challenges of overfishing and unsustainable fishing practices, including illegal, unreported and unprotected fishing, low compliance and weak capacity for law enforcement within the sector.