Police enforcement of imposition of restrictions to stop COVID-19 spread

Ghana police

The Police Service is playing vital role in efforts at tackling the novel coronavirus pandemic that has disrupted the pattern of life and economies across world.

It has been supporting government’s drive towards achieving the five objectives of: limiting and stopping the importation of the pathogen; contain its spread; provide adequate care for the sick; limit the impact of the virus on social and economic life; inspire the expansion of our domestic capability and deepen our self-reliance.

The Police Administration has therefore adopted some new policies and measures as part of its traditional role of maintaining law and order, in response to the Presidential imposition of restrictions on movements parts of the country – Accra, Tema, Kasoa and Kumasi, the “hotspots” of the virus infection.

Deployment of Personnel and Resources

The entire Police population of over 35,000 officers have been mobilised – put on the frontline to prevent the spread of COVID-19. They include all general duty officers, specialised units and professionals, performing various tasks and in different shifts, depending on several informed factors. The deployment of the rank and file of the Police Service is personally led by the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mr. James Oppong-Boanuh.

The IGP has suspended Annual Vacation Leave of all officers and other forms of Leave for this period. This is to ensure that all officers are readily available to execute duties.

Other resources such as vehicles, medical supplies and combat equipment have also been deployed for the same purpose of maintaining law and order generally, and specifically enforcing the Imposition of Restrictions Act, 2020 (Act 1012), the Imposition of Restrictions (Coronavirus Disease (Covid-19) Pandemic) Instrument, 2020 (E.I 64) and any other applicable law.

Duties of the Police in this instance are complemented by the mandates and efforts of other Security Services including the Ghana Armed Forces, Ghana Immigration Service, Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority, the Ghana Port and Harbour Authority, the Bureau of National Investigation and allied services.

Security personnel have been briefed to apply democratic principles and to exhibit a high level of professionalism.
Enforcement of Restrictions Imposed on Accra, Tema, Kasoa and KumasiRoad blocks for inter-city access.

As part of efforts to enforce compliance with the Presidential order for people in Ghana to stay home and especially at the “hotspots” of the infections, some roads shall have no thoroughfare.

Supported by the Ghana Armed Forces, roads leading in and out of the Greater Accra, Greater Kumasi, Tema and Kasoa to other areas have been closed with roadblocks from today 30th March, 2020 until midnight of 13th April 2020.

In Greater Accra, the road blocks will be at Weija toll booth, Ayi Mensah toll booth, Mensah Bar at Oyibi and Oyibi to Appolonia – Kubekrom – Ashaiman – New Jerusalem

Those in Greater Kumasi are going to be at Ejisu on the Accra road, Abuakwa on the Sunyani road, Nkawie (Bibiani road), Suame on the Abrepo-Barekese road, Offinso on the Techiman road, Tafo Pankrono on the Mampong road, Asokwa and Kuntenase on roads leading to Bekwai and Ejisu

In Tema, the road blocks will be at Asutuare junction barrier on the Akosombo road, Tsopoli barrier on the Aflao road and Ashaiman – Santeo and Ashaiman – Appolonia.

For Kasoa these will be at Adam Nana, New Station Traffic Light, Oklu Nkwanta, Akwele, 1st Traffic Light, Estate Junction, Crispo City, Las Vegas, CP Junction, Pink FM, Kakraba junction and Walatu Junction.

In addition, all other routes leading to destinations outside of the hotspot areas, whether by foot, automobile, sea or sky shall be blocked. Blocking of the areas within Greater Accra, Greater Kumasi, Tema and Kasoa are what people refer to as “lockdown”.

Lockdown in this sense means that at these places, people shall be expected to stay home and shall not be allowed access through the road blocks.

“There shall be, during this period, no inter-city movement of vehicles and aircrafts for private or commercial purposes for the areas of the restrictive measures, except for vehicles and aircrafts providing essential services and those carrying cargo”, says the President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.

Security personnel shall therefore facilitate transportation and protection of persons assigned to contact tracing and testing for covid-19; evacuation and protection of persons in quarantine, quarantine centres, medical facilities, medical personnel and supplies in and out of the lockdown cities.

Similarly, security personnel shall also allow vehicles providing essential services and those carrying cargo in and out of the lockdown cities.

Intra-city restrictions. Security personnel shall ensure that movement of people within Greater Accra, Greater Kumasi, Tema and Kasoa, are restricted from today until the next two weeks. We have employed covert and overt methods of policing, using uniformed and plainclothes personnel to conduct snap check, patrols, stop and question to make sure that people stay home.

Snap checks are random in nature. They are similar to road blocks but unlike blocking total access on the routes above mentioned, these snap check will allow limited access. They will also enable the security agencies to respond rapidly to situations closer to the areas of operation.

This means that there shall be no hawking, no loitering, no waiting, no idleness, no public preaching and no public recreational activity or gathering of any form, including neighbourhood football, basketball, tennis, draft and all other games and sports outside of one’s home.

Exemptions. Any person found outside of ‘home” will have to justify why he or she is moving outside of “home” and the reason must fall under one of two categories of exemptions granted by the President.

Either the person falls within services exempted from the restrictions or is out to get essential item such as food, medicine, water, undertake bank transactions, or to use public toilet facilities, in which case the person will be assisted by security personnel to do so and return home promptly.

All are expected to stay home! Home refers to the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household. It can be a shelter or a confined open space.

Persons falling within services exempted are expected to persuade the security officers that they are exempted from staying home by showing proof of two things. First, that they indeed belong to the exemption category and second, that they are out of “home” to perform the specified exempted service.

These are staff of security services; essential services; members of the executive, legislature and the Judiciary; production, distribution and marketing of food, beverages, pharmaceuticals, medicine, paper and plastic packages; environmental and sanitation activities; staff of VALCO; road and railway construction workers; mining workers; fisherfolk; members of the security agencies assigned lawful duties; staff of electricity, water, telecommunications, e-commerce and digital service providers and staff of fuel stations and such other critical service providers like the media and lawyers.

For a large number of these groups, they already have official identity cards and passes, already agreed upon. Leadership of those who do not have such identity cards should be engaged by their sector agencies on how they can be easily identified by the security officers on duty.

In the interim, security personnel shall accept other means of proof such as one’s appointment letter, payslip, letter of introduction and any other document which links the person to the exemption.

Some of the exempted persons fall within exempted facilities or establishments. These are service, manufacturing or industrial workplaces; markets; supermarkets; shopping malls; restaurants and hotels. Such facilities or establishments would be allowed to operate without restriction.

Security personnel shall ensure that the exempted facilities or establishment maintain social distancing between patrons and staff and among staff; and comply with enhanced hygiene procedures, including the provision of running water and hand washing soap, alcohol-based hand sanitizers and disinfectants. Security personnel shall therefore, ask facility managers to demonstrate how they maintain these. Like any other restriction, breach of this rule can lead to arrest and prosecution under Act 1012.

Enforcement of Nationwide Restrictions
Ban on public gathering. The ban on public gatherings; religious or social, is still in force. In all parts of the country, including the lockdown cities, security personnel shall strictly prohibit public gatherings.

These include conferences; workshops; funerals; festivals; political rallies; sporting events and sporting clubs; private parties and other social gatherings; night clubs, drinking spots; event centres; religious activities in churches, mosques, shrines, crusades, conventions and pilgrimages.

They shall also ensure that all schools continue to remain closed.
Movement of vehicles, motor checks and traffic management. Security personnel shall ensure that movement of vehicles, motorbikes and automobiles shall be in accordance with impositions placed on them.

In addition to ensuring enhanced hygienic conditions in all vehicles and transport terminals, unnecessary honking and movement of cars with no apparent purpose shall not be allowed.

Operators of commercial vehicles shall ensure that seating of passengers shall be in accordance with social distancing. That is maintaining a physical distance of one metre away among passengers.

In the lockdown areas, there shall be strict enforcement of the Presidential directives on motorbikes and trotros.

“Riders of motorbikes are not allowed to carry any additional person, and all intra-city passenger vehicles, such as trotros and taxis, must reduce the number of passengers in order to observe appropriate social distancing and hygiene protocols”, instructs the President.

Only Police officers of the Motor Transport and Traffic Department (MTTD), identified by their usual black and white uniform have been authorised to enforce road traffic regulations and manage traffic, unless the situation calls for the involvement of officers from other units or agencies. Motor checks, which used to be carried out, have been suspended.

Motor check is the stopping and inspection of vehicle documents and driver’s licences by police.
Handling of offences, suspects and police cells.

All persons who breach any part of the restrictions imposed shall be arrested and prosecuted. Individuals and companies who also take advantage of this season to defraud others, spread false news or produce fake products such as sanitizers will also be arrested and made to face the law. These would be done in addition to existing police procedures on arrest.

To help decongest police cells and to ensure social distancing while in Police custody, the IGP has instructed police commanders to grant police enquiry bail to offenders of crimes that are considered misdemeanours or not so serious, without keeping them in cells.

In circumstances where police enquiry bail cannot be granted, suspects shall be screened for a fair idea of their possible coronavirus status before they are placed in cells and processed for Court.

The IGP has also instructed commanders to regularly disinfect police cells in their areas of operation. Similarly, the commander of a Police Station which cells has not enough space for suspects shall transfer the suspect to the nearest available cell.

Safety of Security Personnel in the Enforcement Process
Although security personnel are generally used to risk, strenuous measures have been taken to protect them from being infected from the coronavirus covid-19 disease.

Supply of PPEs and compliance with hygiene procedures. Government through the various administrations of the Security Services has supplied some Personal Protective Equipment (PPE’S) including veronica buckets, soaps and tissue for regular hand washing at stations, duty points and vantage points.

Masks, gloves and sanitizers have also been provided with the hope of receiving more items including coveralls, reusable goggles, face shields and boot covers for use.

Personnel have been sufficiently briefed on the enhanced hygiene procedures and shall stand at a distance of about one metre apart among themselves and in dealing with the public.

“It is vitally important that each one of us, in all parts of the country, continues to observe the social distancing and enhanced hygiene protocols, for they are the weapons of our defence against the virus,” says the President.

Perhaps it is worth mentioning that some groups and individuals have either donated some items or indicated support with PPE’s to the Police Administration.

Many of these items are for daily usage and disposable after use, as such, these are needed in huge numbers. Therefore, it is not misplaced that appeal is made, through this publication to persons and groups who can donate PPEs to the security personnel to do so in support of the work of security personnel.

Emergency Response and Hotline for Police Officers on suspicion of COVID-19. The Police Administration has set up a team of dedicated doctors at the Police Hospital with three mobile numbers: 0594950021, 0557702759 and 0594900312 for personnel to call for direction in case of suspicion of covid-19.

This team works closely with the national response team on the disease and will give timely response to situations reported by the security personnel.

The team also continuously brief the IGP on happenings and gives instructive guides to commanders for briefing and debriefing of officers before and after performing duties related to the enforcement of imposition of restrictions on COVID-19.

Identified Threats and Public Education
Police have identified several possible agitations and adverse reactions against the imposition of restrictions as threats.

These include a section of the public’s misunderstanding of the imposition of restrictions, the likelihood of criminal elements taking advantage of the period to loot businesses and the possibility of some individuals disregarding the law.

Therefore, in complement of the efforts of the Ministry for Information, National Commission for Civic Education and other agencies, the Police Administration has channelled its public education efforts to educating the public on security safety in this era of coronavirus spread.

This publication is one of such efforts. The focus of the Police Daily Security Tips, published on the Ghana Police Service’s Facebook account and twitter handle @GhPoliceService has also been shifted to this subject.

The public are encouraged to contact Police for clarification on the enforcement of imposition of restrictions to Stop COVID-19. Within this period, the public can call the police emergency numbers 18555 or 191 for enquiries on the enforcement. Contact with the police can also be made through our digital platforms on Facebook and twitter @GhPoliceService.

It is the hope of leadership of the Police that everyone will stay home, as much as possible, to eradicate the coronavirus disease from the country. The outlined enforcement strategies of the security services shall be reviewed from time to time and the public shall be updated of new developments.

The Ghana Police Service, together with sister security services, count on the support of all in this extraordinary time. We need to fight and win the battle against the novel coronavirus disease.

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