Passengers queue to board a bus

The COVID-19 technical team of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) is calling on government to institute measures to ensure that head porters, popularly known as kayayei and ‘paa o paa’ who are fleeing Accra and Kumasi to their hometowns do not spread the coronavirus.

In a statement copied to JoyNews, the team said these people are high risk because no screening is made of such travellers returning to their home towns.

Many southern dwellers are fleeing to the north and other parts of the country as Greater Accra, Ashanti and parts of the Central region prepare to enter a partial lockdown beginning Monday, March 30.

JoyNews’ Martina Abugri spoke to some transport operators who describe the sudden boom in travelers as Christmas in March.

But the NDC COVID-19 team is worried and has urged government to “ensure that all are properly screened in their originating locations and quarantined at their destination locations for the required 14 days and retested before they are cleared to join their helpless families and communities.”

They also want, among other things, for the “Regional NaDMO should prepare school classrooms to receive and keep the returnees.”

Read the full statement below:

GOVERNMENT MUST INSTITUTE URGENT MEASURES TO ENSURE THAT “KAYAYEI” AND “PAA O PA” DO NOT SPREAD COVID-19 UPON RETURN

Head porters popularly known as “Kayayo/Kayayei” and “Paa O Pa” are mostly young girls and men who often migrate from deprived communities to the bigger cities to perform menial jobs for a living. The majority of them come from the northern part of Ghana. Whilst in the bigger cities, mostly Accra and Kumasi seeking for their so-call greener pastures they face a mirage of challenges ranging from lack of access to accommodation, water and sanitation to food. Most of these people live on the streets and are exposed to all manners of abuses and diseases. They are by all standards, a category of the vulnerable groups in the country that need special attention during this period of rapid spread of COVID-19.

His Excellency the President announced yesterday that Accra, Kumasi and other cities will be lockdown in a bid to contain the dreaded Coronavirus pandemic

Following this announcement, all lorry parks in Kumasi, Accra and Obuasi have seen many residents of these cities travelling to their home towns to avoid the effect of the Virus. The GHA notes that no screening is made of such travellers returning to their home towns. Of biggest concern to the GHA is the return of the many young head porters or Kayayie and young men engaged in Street Hawking and “Paa O Pa” and other menial jobs in these cities.

The GHA is concerned that without any medical screening whatsoever, these returning Kayayie and Paa o paa workers have the greatest potential of carrying the Coronavirus to their rural hometowns in the Northern and Upper Regions of Ghana.

In this regard, GHA calls on the government to ensure that all are properly screened in their originating locations and quarantined at their destination locations for the required 14 days and retested before they are cleared to join their helpless families and communities.

The GHA calls on the government to take the following measures:

1. Screen all persons including the Kayayie and Pao o Pa young men 

 2. After a thorough medical screening the government must transport them in the State Transport and Metro Mass buses to their destinations.

3. The Municipal Assemblies must put up Emergency Medical Teams to receive the Returning persons from Accra and Kumasi etc. 

4. The Regional NaDMO should prepare school classrooms to receive and keep the returnees 

5. The NaDMO must supply them with Blankets, Sanitary Pads Cleaning and other life keeping materials 

6. The District Medical Director should set up District Medical Team to monitor the health of the Returnees, especially the children. 

7. The Social Welfare should begin to design Retention Programmes in Vocational and Technical Skills for training post coronavirus pandemic.

This is the time for the government to care for the poor and vulnerables. Let’s treat them as human beings deserving of quality of life and not as mere objects of elections.

GHA remains optimistic that government would respond to the call to support these people and save innocent lives.

(Ghana Health Alert is a Civil Society Organization made up of Medical and Public Health Consultants, Senior Health Personnel, Academics and Researchers with the goal of advocating for improved health and educating Ghanaians on the importance of public health)

Signed:

Dr. Vida Nyagre Yakong (Senior Lecturer, UDS)

Executive Secretary, GHA & Member of the NDC’s COVID-19 TECHNICAL TEAM)