COVID -19: An opportunity to reboot our minds and country
While the world continues to battle the novel COVID-19 (Coronavirus) outbreak, ideas are emanating from every corner as to how the world should run after the pandemic. It has overwhelmed health care delivery systems; both caregivers and institutions are being stretched to their elastic limits.
For countries like Ghana, the situation is calamitous, as an inadequate provision of facilities and personnel expose a system which has been under-resourced over the years.
However, like every cloud, there is a silver lining in the Coronavirus pandemic, which can be leveraged to enhance the quality of life of citizens if only the government is willing to step up to the plate, commit resources and see that it is done.
Take China and India for example, which have suffered a bad climate for years as a result of excessive pollution of its atmosphere. Reports following the COVID-19 outbreak show that those countries are now experiencing improved climatic conditions as human activities that led to pollution have been curtailed.
Taking advantage of COVID-19 to correct flawed systems
Ghana needs to take advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to correct problematic systems and tackle other challenges the country has been battling with for years.
It is a well- known fact that so many human activities and movements hamper the execution of major projects, especially within our cities. Case in point is the dredging of big drains which causes so much inconvenience. In the wake of COVID-19, it is prudent for the government to have tasked the Sanitation Minister to ensure that gutters are desilted. While these gutters are being unclogged, the government must also pay attention to the larger drains, some of which run through the heart of our cities and communities.
The Odaw River drain near Achimota has been a contributory factor to Accra’s perennial flooding because of city authorities’ inability to dredge completely it. This lockdown season presents an opportunity for the responsible ministry and other stakeholders to ensure that it is completely desilted and dredged.
Another source of inconvenience is ongoing major constructions such as interchanges and flyovers which end up affecting mobility. With less movement these days, such projects can be expedited before the lockdown ends.
Post COVID-19 will require that the country’s workforce increase productivity to hasten the process of recovery for the economy. Heavy traffic jams as a result of non-functioning or poorly configured traffic lights slow down productivity. Now that parts of heavy-traffic areas in the country are under lockdown, authorities must do well to fix them.
Also, buildings that are found on waterways that create discomfort and continue to pose a challenge in the prevention of flooding can now be demolished. Again, COVID-19 has exposed the need for the establishment of robust ICT systems and infrastructure. We need to increase internet penetration rate to allow for online learning, especially amongst rural folks in this period where physical meetings are restricted.
Although correcting systemic challenges is very necessary in the wake of COVID-19, perhaps what is more important in all of this is the need for citizens to renew their minds, and be more patriotic and responsible. We need to strip our minds of that sense of entitlement without any recourse to responsibility. Meeting tax obligations does not give any citizen the free will to be nonchalant and irresponsible. Every citizen has a crucial role to play in making Ghana better.
This pandemic has revealed how some Ghanaians are so quick to advantage of unfortunate events to swindle their compatriots. The cassava seller, drug dispenser, those selling sanitizers among others see COVID-19 as an opportunity to be usurious by pegging their wares at very ridiculous rates. If you believe you ought to overprice your wares just to cash-in on a public health crisis, to the detriment of the average Ghanaian who can’t afford it, you are corrupt; if not worse. Your lack of empathy and kindness should be a conversation for another day.
Creating healthy habits and fostering relationships
Coronavirus also reminds us of the need to create new healthy habits and strengthen relationships. I have heard people talking about acquiring a new skill and starting a “side hustle” among others. These are all necessary. I personally believe folks should also focus on reading books, exercising, developing connections with family and loved ones and honing skills and capabilities. We should purposefully add value to our life in any meaningful way while time allows us.
The Bible talks about seasons and times in Ecclesiastes 3 and I feel this is a unique time to reconfigure and reinvent ourselves into much more responsible, empathy-filled and law-abiding citizens. Yes, some might be stupidly defiant, they cannot bring themselves to kowtow to any restrictions in this difficult time, but don’t add on to the statistics–you need to be different!
A change of attitude
As we figure out the best ways of rooting out COVID-19, our attitudes toward waste creation and its management must change. We should find effective and efficient ways of disposing waste and recycle where necessary to not just keep our surroundings clean, but enhance environmental sustainability.
We must arouse our consciousness to stick to time, approach national issues with a sense of urgency and avoid procrastination. While we are in lockdown, we must deeply reflect on what we can do to better our lot and improve the quality of life of those around us, especially the vulnerable and needy.
Local consumption and economic recovery
The speedy recovery of our economy from this downturn largely depends not just on government policies, but local consumption patterns. Already, it’s been projected that the country’s economy might shrink by some GH¢9.5 billion, according to the Finance Minister in his address to Parliament late March. For a country like Ghana, this could be quite dire for livelihoods. Mitigating this will require citizens to realign their taste buds to conform to local products and services. This will ultimately spur our industries on to churn out more goods which could positively affect the fortunes of the local economy.
As someone who writes and reports on tourism and travel, I cannot overlook the significant role domestic tourism will play. After COVID-19, we should be eager to visit the many tourist sites across the country.
Most of these sites present a better opportunity to get in tune with nature for a healing and therapeutic effect as opposed to the superficial and flashy things elsewhere.
President Akufo-Addo in his latest address to the nation on measures being taken by the government to deal with the pandemic outlined five key objectives around which this is being done. One of them very much aligns with the rationale behind this article; “inspire the expansion of our domestic capability and deepen our self-reliance.”
I am of the firm belief that this pandemic presents us with a unique opportunity to lay the foundations towards the “Ghana Beyond Aid” agenda.
The onus is therefore on us citizens to harness our creativity, be innovative and do all we can to see to the realization of this objective.
In the end, we can look back and reminisce in glee with the words of this evocative poem written by Kitty O’Meara:
“And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently.
“And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.
“And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.”
The writer is the Content Editor for VoyagesAfriq Travel Magazine.