Ghanaians who fail to wear the face masks in compliance with a presidential directive risk going to jail for ten years.
They also face a hefty fine under a new regulation passed by the country’s parliament to fight the spread of the coronavirus.
The new Executive Instrument (E.I. 164) signed by President Akufo-Addo, made it an offence for refusing to wear a face mask in public.
The punishment for the said offence is a prison sentence of four to 10 years or a fine of GH¢12,000 ($2,000) to GH¢60,000 ($10,000) or both.
.@NAkufoAddo: “Leaving our homes without a face mask is an offence. Our survival is in our own hands. If we are lax and inattentive, we will continue to have serious challenges with the virus.” pic.twitter.com/IgytUf1N8h
— GBC Ghana (@thegbcghana) June 15, 2020
Ghana’s Information Minister Kojo Oppong Nkrumah has urged heads of local government units across the country to enforce the wearing of the nose masks in their respective jurisdictions.
He said that citizens have a collective responsibility and interest to wear them to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“The virus does not discriminate either on religious, tribal, economic, political or social status. It can affect anyone and if you have underlying health conditions, it can worsen your health condition leading to death” he said.
But there is outrage among a section of the population over the new law.
Hello pals, Please let us try our best to wear the face mask and observe all measures put in place to stop the spread of COVID-19. It is mandatory. pic.twitter.com/wCPDWm5S8k
— Ghana Police Service (@GhPoliceService) June 18, 2020
Private legal practitioner, Martin Kpebu has said that the punishment for refusing to wear a face mask in public is harsh.
In a radio interview in Accra he asked President Akufo-Addo to take a second look at the punishment.
“Failure to wear a mask cannot attract a fine of GH¢4,000 in Ghana here. What are their income levels?” he asked.
“Let’s do something about this; otherwise it’s just going to be a mockery and it will bring chaos. There is the need for more education for everybody to understand the essence of nose mask-wearing” the lawyer said.
On social media Ghanaians have reacted to the new law, with some expressing fears it could be abused by the police who have already started enforcing it.
… offence to be out and about without wearing a face mask. This is why: the latest authoritative Ghana Living Standard Survey report (2017) documents that 2.4 Ghanaians live in extreme poverty in 2017. That means they cannot make 792.05 Ghana cedis (about $165) annually to buy
— Jasper Abembia Ayelazuno (@abembia1) June 15, 2020