The Right to Information law is being tested a second time as private legal practitioner, Akoto Ampaw has requested for information on the country’s preparedness for a possible novel coronavirus outbreak.

In a request addressed to the Information Officers of the Ghana Health Service and the Health Ministry or in the absence the respective heads of those institutions, Mr Ampaw expressed worry that Ghanaians are not being adequately informed on the Covid-19.

“As a citizen of Ghana, I am deeply disturbed about the structure (if any) our state authorities have established to inform Ghanaians on a regular basis on the preparations that our health care system is taking to deal with this menace, the content of public information on these preparations, the paucity of information to the public on what self-help measures members of the public should be taking to avoid or minimize contracting the virus,” said Ampaw.

Among others, he wants to know whether “a centralized structure been established by the government to tackle the Covid-19 virus threat?”

“If so, what agencies constitute this structure and how regularly do these agencies meet?”

He also wants to know “what specific measures are in place at the various points of entry into Ghana i.e. international airport, seaports and land ports (considering that Nigeria has recorded a case)?”

“How do we intend to quarantine suspected cases at the ports of entry?”

Mr Ampaw specified that he is requesting the information pursuant to Article 21(f) of the 1992 Constitution and the RTI Act 2019.

The law, passed last year after two decades is expected to make access to information from public officials easier for citizens.

However, the first test case for the law more or less hit rocks after the Electoral Commission (EC) declined to release some procurement information to Ashaiman MP, Henry Norgbey.

The EC said fees chargeable for the MP’s request have not been determined by parliament, hence it cannot release the information despite, its willingness.

The Parliamentarian has, however, vowed to challenge the EC’s decision in court.

Read Ampaw’s full request below

Application for Information under Article 21 (1) (f) and Section 18 of the Right to Information Act, 2019, (Act 989)

The Coronavirus, Covid -19, is now threatening to develop into a pandemic.  The virus has spread to some seventy-four (74) countries, including China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan, Iran, Italy, Germany, France, United Arab Emirates, USA, France, Britain, Egypt, Tunisia and Nigeria   The World Health Organisation has declared the virus “a global public health emergency” and warned that, if the world fails to take effective action to control its spread, it could become a pandemic.  The virus has, in addition to its obvious threat to the health of populations, had an equally damaging impact on the world economy.  

As a citizen of Ghana, I am deeply disturbed about the structure (if any) our state authorities have established to inform Ghanaians on a regular basis on the preparations that our health care system is taking to deal with this menace, the content of public information on these preparations, the paucity of information to the public on what self-help measures members of the public should be taking to avoid or minimize contracting the virus. 

While the health and other relevant authorities in other countries, with far more robust health care systems, provide daily information to their citizens on the virus, are imposing bans on air travel to and from specified countries where the virus has broken out in, while others are banning large gatherings and cancelling events likely to involve large crowds, in Ghana there does not appear to be the same degree of urgency in our response to the threat the disease poses to our health and economy.  

I have therefore found it necessary to exercise my right to information guaranteed under the Constitution and the Right to Information Act, 2019, (Act 989) to seek answers to the following questions which I pose to the information officers at Ghana Health Service and the Ministry of Health, or if no such officers exist, then to the Director General of the Ghana Health Service and the Minister of Health.  I would appreciate it if the answer to this application could be in writing to me either by e-mail or through my postal address provided below:  

QUESTIONS ON NOVEL CORONAVIRUS COVID-19

Structure

Has a centralized structure been established by the government to tackle the Covid-19 virus threat?

If so, what agencies constitute this structure and how regularly do these agencies meet?

INFORMATION TO THE PUBLIC

  1. What are the official channels of communication to the general public on the COVID-19 situation
  2. How do you update the population on the situation of infected countries to allow information to the traveling public

PORT HEALTH

  1. What specific measures are in place at the various points of entry into Ghana i.e. international airport, sea ports and land ports (considering that Nigeria has recorded a case)?
  2. How do we intend to quarantine suspected cases at the ports of entry?
  3. What is the nature of collaboration with other ministries, especially foreign affairs and Interior, to suspend flights into the country from epicenters of the virus? Do we even intend to do that?
  4. Which authority is vested with the power to recommend travel bans to countries severely affected such as China, South Korea, Iran, Japan and Italy?
  5. In the event a decision is taken to bring back Ghanaians from Wuhan, what measures are in place or will be put in place to ensure that this country is well protected?

PREVENTION

  1. What information is being given to the general public on preventive measures and to what extent is it systematic?
  2. What measures are in place to quarantine suspected cases in communities should we have a case?
  3. Any advice on crowds and gatherings such as festivals, funerals, schools, churches, stadia etc.?
  4. How do you intend to follow up on contacts of suspect and or infected cases, i.e. contact tracing?
  5. Does the country have enough logistics for prevention such as hand sanitizers, face masks etc.?

CASE DETECTION AND MANAGEMENT

  1. Do we have enough medical laboratories for testing for the virus in samples taken from suspected persons?
  2.  How many test kit do we currently have in the country?  What steps have been taken to acquire more of such kit and when do we expect to receive it?
  3. What plans are in place to transport samples to testing centres for confirmation?
  4. Do we have enough personal protective equipment (PPEs) in hospitals and clinics for medical personnel to attend to suspected cases? How many and how are the PPEs distributed across the country?
  5. Have medical personnel been adequately trained in taking these samples and treating patients? When was the training done nationwide?  How many health care personnel have been involved in these training?
  6. Do our hospitals and clinics have the right procedures to prevent and control infections?
  7. Do we have enough containment and treatment centres in the country? Where are the designated treatment centres?
  8. Are these centres adequately resourced to handle these cases, including adequate numbers of ventilators, considering that in the event of severe illness, these patients will need to be on ventilators?

EFFECT OF VIRUS ON HEALTHCARE

  1. Considering that Ghana sources majority of its drugs and non-drug consumables from China, what measures are in place to ensure that general healthcare in the country is not unduly affected as a result of this global health emergency?

Signed:

Akoto Ampaw

House No. 3, Oshippi Street, North Kaneshie, Accra.

E-mail: sheeysheey@yhoo.co.uk

P. O. Box 207, Accra.