Ghana’s speaker of Parliament, Professor Mike Oquaye, has said it is erroneous for MPs to rush to the media to leak the COVID-19 status of their colleagues.
However, he said it is within the right of lawmakers to inform the public about their personal status if they so wish.
“You cannot unilaterally put into the public realm that a person is positive, let everybody know this, let every lady and gentleman, every person know this in this Republic, and it has been well-stated in this Honourable House. You cannot unilaterally put in the public realm that a person is positive,” the Speaker on Wednesday.
“It is only for an individual to voluntarily, put it in the public realm and we are all learning from this as decent and honourable people and this Honourable House will follow that line of the example, that is our public duty.
“If you allow me to quote from what Honourable Dr Oko Boye said: ‘We should show that we are not in a hurry to disclose names worthy of a headline and it is my view that such sensationalism, what is going on must stop because they rather encourage stigmatisation’. When you sensationalise news, you encourage stigmatization,” Prof. Oquaye noted.
His comments follow a media report on Tuesday that two MPs and 13 parliamentary staff have tested positive for coronavirus. Parliament denied the report although Asawase lawmaker Muntaka Mubarak confirmed the information saying that two of his colleagues had tested positive.
“What happened in Parliament and what you heard [about MPs testing positive for COVID-19] is the fact. It is the truth,” Mr. Muntaka insisted.
The NDC MP is of the view that Parliament had failed to handle the issue properly. To him, when the publication was made, instead of denying it, Parliament should have told the media that: “We are not done with the testing so please don’t create panic. Give us time to complete the testing and when it becomes necessary to communicate to you on anything that has happened, we will do that.”
“This is what happened; when they [health officials] finished the testing, they were initially calling people one after the other. But they later told us that, because the numbers were huge, they asked that we put on our platform that, all those who do not receive calls from us but have been tested…should assume they are negative and they will only call those who are positive,” Muntaka said on Joy News.
Muntaka said, after health officials were done picking samples in the House last Wednesday, they realised that “one MP and one staff tested positive and on Thursday one MP and 12 staff tested positive for COVID-19.”
The Asawase legislator noted that the infected persons have subsequently been isolated while contact tracing has commenced.
“They have to do contact tracing and they have to isolate these persons, and as far as I am concerned, that has also been done,” he added.
The Speaker of Parliament, Prof. Aaron Mike Oquaye on Tuesday, May 19, 2020, ordered the immediate mass testing of Members of Parliament and the parliamentary staff for COVID-19.
The directive formed part of measures instituted by the Parliamentary Service Board to prevent an outbreak of the pandemic in the House. As a result of that directive, the samples of some 690 persons in Parliament were taken.
By Jonathan Ofori, Daily Mail GH