Business at the ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) has drastically reduced a week into the imposition of movement restriction in the Greater Accra Metropolitan and Greater Kumasi areas as part of measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
While the MDAs have asked many of their staff to work from home, members of the public who throng the ministries daily to access services have deserted the area.
The MDAs have now taken to online and social media platforms for their meetings to meet the social distancing requirement for curbing the spread of COVID-19.
Visits to MDAs
When the Daily Graphic visited some of the MDAs, it was observed that the ministries had been reduced to a ghost zone with very little human activity going on.
Most of the staff of those institutions were not at work because of a shift system that had been implemented to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Only crucial departments and offices at the MDAs, such as the ministerial floors, human resource, transport, procurement and public relations departments had some staff at post.
Some of the MDAs visited include the Ministries of Food and Agriculture (MoFA), Lands and Natural Resources, Education, Health as well as the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) and the Auditor-General’s Department.
In all the institutions the team visited, it was observed that some barricades had been mounted within the premises to limit access to the offices.
The team further observed that internal security personnel at the MDAs were on the alert at the entrances to those institutions as they took the temperature of persons before they were allowed into the main buildings.
Also, Veronica buckets had been placed at entrances to the MDAs for the staff and visitors to wash their hands before they conducted any business.
At the MoH, for instance, six Veronica buckets were positioned at the security gate for all persons to wash their hands before they move to the inner reception for their temperature to be taken.
After going through the handwashing and screening session, the team was allowed into the building where it observed that there was less activity.
The Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the ministry, Mr Elorm Ametepe, said the restrictions had grounded most of the planned programmes of the Health Ministry.
“We have only a skeletal essential staff doing the work here and it is impacting negatively on us because there are certain areas that the MoH is expected to function but because of the lockdown, we do not have staff to do them,” he said.
Mr Ametepe explained further that the mode of communication at the ministry had changed significantly because of the COVID-19 and the need to observe social distancing.
“We have now moved on to the use of online, WhatsApp, emails and Skype to communicate because they are safer,” he said.
Lands and Natural Resources Ministry
When the team got to the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, it was observed that the main entrance had been locked to prevent people from entering, while the few essential staff who turned up for work used a backdoor to access their offices.
The Head of Public Relations at the ministry, Mr Abraham Otabil, explained that the decision to lock the main entrance to the ministry was to limit access to the offices.
“We are all aware that we are not in normal times and the Lands Ministry is no exception. We decided to use an alternative entrance where security cameras have been installed to monitor everything that happens here”.
“We are also screening visitors to be sure that people don’t enter our premises anyhow,” he said.
The ministry also had made provisions for handwashing and hand sanitising.
The situation at MoFA was not any different as only about 50 per cent of the staff was at work.
The PRO of MoFA, Mr Tanko Bagbara, said the ministry was working to a schedule that allowed only essential staff to be at work, while others worked from home.
He noted that the Agriculture Ministry was grappling with the challenge of ensuring that the food value chain as exempted in the COVID-19 restrictions got the opportunity to do their business.
“We are receiving reports about the difficulty some of them go through to cart foodstuff to markets and even fertilisers to farmers. We are looking at ways and means to address these challenge,” he said.