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Coronavirus: Bawku Parliamentary Candidate blows whistle on possible imported cases from France

he parliamentary candidate of the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) for the Bawku Central Constituency, Gabiana Agbanwa Bugri, has warned of Ghana possibly recording fresh imported cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) from France whose death toll has passed 13,000.

Ghana, in the wake of the strange pandemic, has embargoed movement of persons into the country in the short term. But some border-town residents in the Upper East Region, where 4 people have tested positive for COVID-19, reportedly are letting travellers in from neighbouring French-speaking Togo for a fee.

“Several people from Togo do business in France and the COVID-19 cases in France are high. Some individuals are now using motorbikes from Ghana to Sankasi (a commercial hub in Togo) to bring people to Bawku and Widana to come and do business. They are taking Gh¢150 from the traders to bring them from Togo to Ghana. There is a likelihood that people who have gone to France to do business, if they have the disease, can transfer the virus to our people when they are brought in from Sankasi to do business in our communities.

“We need a watchdog committee in the community to identify such people. The security agencies should also intensify their patrol operations without favour to anybody no matter their political backgrounds. Education also must go on to let such people understand that when they go out of the country to bring people, thinking they are doing business, they are also putting their own lives at risk and endangering the lives of their loved ones,” alerted the CEO of the Produce Buying Company (PBC) Shea Ltd.

The retired health expert put out the alert when she took a tour of the Bawku Municipality to donate hand sanitizers and liquid soap at border barriers and checkpoints against the spread of the disease. She presented similar items to the Bawku Prisons, the Bawku Divisional Police Headquarters and the Bawku Municipal Health Directorate.

Mrs. Bugri, through the tour, also acquainted herself with some challenges confronting security agencies in relation to the anti-COVID-19 fight in the municipality.

Cross-border wedding ceremony sparks ‘clash’ between immigration officers and border residents

A tributary of the White Volta runs between Ghana and Burkina Faso at Mognori, a border community in Bawku. The river currently is empty of water even as the curtains are about to fall on the long dry season.

The river’s rocky bottom, now bare and full of white sand, has become a ‘battlefield’ of constant struggles between some adamant border residents and unprotected immigration officers assigned to enforce government’s no-movement orders.

Persistent attempts by the locals to cross the riverbed between Ghana, where the virus has infected 408 persons and killed 8, and Burkina Faso, where 484 cases have been recorded with 27 coronavirus graves, have kept the Mognori-based immigration officers busier than they usually are in ordinary times.

The residents are many— just as the unapproved routes are many. Meanwhile, the officers are few and are fighting without COVID-19 testing machines, personal protective equipment (PPE) and (at least) a tent for cover from extremely ‘cruel’ weather conditions. They do not even have a vehicle to go after any traveller spotted from afar on any of the 50-plus unapproved routes all over the place. Wherever their paths cross, a conflict between the law enforcers and the locals is what follows.

Just before the parliamentary candidate arrived at the border barrier at Mognori in the company of NPP party executives and the press, immigration officers at the riverside had fought back a group of border residents who were bent on crossing from Ghana to Burkina Faso to attend a traditional wedding ceremony.

An immigration officer, wearing a blue-black nose mask and holding a rifle pointed downwards, told the parliamentary candidate on the riverbank, “Madam, there is a problem. There is awure (a wedding ceremony) on the other side of the river,” pointing towards Burkina Faso with a gloved hand.

“We refused them. They say they won’t allow and want to mobilise and come here. There is a problem, Madam. The people say this is their land,” added the officer with a tone of distress.

Burkinabe patients “trooping” to Ghana as health centre shuts down

A reported shutdown of a health centre in a community across the river is also amassing pressure on Ghanaian immigration officers as patients “are trooping” from Burkina Faso to Mognori.

“You see them trying to cross from Burkina Faso to Ghana in their numbers to go to the corn mill. Look at the corn mill,” said one of the officers, Anthony Owusu, pointing at a structure several metres away. “When you tell them to gather their stuff and give it to one motorking rider so that they don’t have to cross to Ghana in their numbers and mass at the corn mill, so that the disease does not spread further, they disagree.”

He added: “Some also come telling you they want to cross to go to their farms in Burkina Faso. And we learn that they have closed their health centre in Burkina Faso. So, they are all trooping here for medical assistance. Just this morning, a pregnant woman came from Burkina Faso to seek antenatal care here in Ghana. We allowed her because of her condition but we made sure she was screened first for the virus by the Mognori Health Centre.”

Troubled by the risky and trying conditions under which the immigration officers were working at the checkpoint, the parliamentary candidate, who also visited the immigration barrier at Misiga, made a strong appeal to the Ghana Health Service (GHS) to help resource the Ghana Immigration Service (GIS) in Bawku with COVID-19 testing equipment.

“You can still see people crossing. This is a very big challenge for the security personnel here. We know the foodstuffs are supposed to come in but where is the testing machine? There is a need for us to get the testing machine to test anybody who is coming from that side or going to that side. I’m calling on the Ghana Health Service, the Regional Health Directorate, to provide the immigration officers with testing machines to enable them do their work effectively,” Mrs. Bugri told reporters.

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