In the last few days, all 275 Members of Parliament (MPs) and staff of Parliament have been undergoing a mandatory COVID-19 test ordered by the Speaker Mike Oquaye.
As part of efforts to prevent the spread of the dreaded global pandemic in the House, the Speaker last week directed the Medical Directorate of Parliament to conduct the test on all those who work at the legislative wing of the government.
What was envisaged to be a routine test, with the results communicated privately to only the individuals concerned has turned out into a controversy that appears to divide the House on a matter that should have the support of all members of Parliament.
This is a matter that needed a collective approach because the disease is no respecter of status in society. It is attacking and killing everyone so it is surprising that a mere test in the House is generating such controversy.
It is a matter of concern that the House cannot agree on the mode of disclosing the results of the test such that the public is being fed with conflicting results from the test conducted on the staff and MPs
While media reports has it that some MPs as well as staff have tested positive which was collaborated by the Minority Chief Whip, Mubarak Mohammed Muntaka, the Majority Leader, Kyei Mensah Bonsu and the Public Affairs Director of Parliament, Kate Addo, dispute the claim.
According to a statement authored by the Public Affairs Department, “Parliament would like to state categorically that the results of the tests were not yet known and so the report is not true.
“The confidentiality protocol of testing for COVID-19 is that, those who test positive will be called directly by the testing team and taken through the necessary steps for quarantine and treatment. Officially Parliament is unaware of any such call and has no official figures from the National COVID-19 response team.
So what is really the beef? While the Speaker of the House is of the view that public disclosure of the test results has the potential of fuelling stigmatisation other members’ some think otherwise.
That is what had led to the public spar and led to a needless public discussion that is unnecessary. While we do not support those who advocate public disclosure of the health status of individual concerned, i do not think that it is also helpful to prevent individuals to freely divulge their health status to the public.
The Ghanaian Times recalls that President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and the First Lady, Rebecca and Former President Jerry John Rawlings as well as many prominent citizens at different times willingly disclosed their COVID-19 status. The public is fully aware of their status and we think it will send a good signal to the citizenry to follow.
It is, therefore, baffling that our MPs cannot find a common ground to deal with the results of their COVID-19 test in the House. We are not the ones to tell them what to do but we would have appreciated it if they had followed the examples of prominent people around the globe who had no problem with disclosing their COVID-19 status.
The MPs are role models and public figures many look up to and it is important that they exhibit exemplary leadership and show the way for many who look up to them to follow.
Allowing the public know about their COVID-19 status would encourage people to go for voluntary tests and not be afraid to disclose the results because no one would stigmatise them.
We are encouraged by the MPs and we commend them for going through such an important exercise at this crucial time as we battle the global pandemic which we believe would send a strong signal to the general public to continue to observe the health protocols that are vital for the fight against COVID-19.