Since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO), a number of preventive and mitigation measures have been prescribed against the spread of the virus with the latest being the wearing of masks or face coverings.
The Minister of Health in Ghana directed the mandatory use of masks or face coverings when going out whether sick or not or attending to a sick person, and in all public places.
The following groups or persons were required at all times to wear masks: food vendors and sellers at markets, commercial vehicle drivers and attendants (“mates”), commuters on public transports, persons in public and commercial centers.
The rest are facilities and buildings including but not limited to offices, bars, workshops, restaurants, sports arenas and spas, saloons, shopping malls, churches, clinics and hospitals, and all other facilities accessible to the public whether publicly or privately owed.
Now, I want to draw your attention on the need to also be very security conscious especially during this period of COVID-19 pandemic. This year has been a very trying year for Ghana since a lot has happened back to back.
We have had to grapple with the financial sector cleanup with its corresponding woes it had on the economy and individuals, and just as we were about recovering, Corona Virus Disease 2019 (COVID 19) raised its ugly head.
A large majority of individuals who earn a living by riding motorcycles, tricycles and petty trading lost their jobs and have been having a hard time and now the economy is shutting down, with a ban on mass gathering still in place.
No elaborate provision has been made for the welfare of the lower class and a lot of people no longer have a viable source of income. They have tried borrowing, begging and many now resort to stealing.
Drawing on the current trends and expertise and knowledge from police in countries already dealing with Covid-19 related issues, some crime-related patterns may emerge – armed robbery, theft, kidnapping, molestations, etc.
Globally, there has also been a significant rise in domestic violence cases since the start of coronavirus-related quarantines, with reports showing women and children at greater risk of abuse. This might also emerge as a pattern in Ghana.
The wearing of masks and face coverings provides incentives and opportunities for criminal groups to start exploring new crime patterns. Although many people are under confinement, criminals and terrorists continue to operate.
This also requires that the police start using innovative technologies to adapt to the challenges of Covid-19 such as the use of drones, the evolving use of biometrics and artificial intelligence if available.
Under normal circumstances, walking into a store wearing a surgical mask or face covering would be grounds for suspicion. But with many people now wearing some sort of face covering to avoid catching or transmitting the novel coronavirus, more Ghanaians than ever are confusing their features when they leave home.
Another challenge may be stigmatization on those who genuinely may use the face coverings. The fear of being mistaken for an armed robber or assailant is greater than the fear of contracting Covid-19.
“I know masks work, and I trust the Health Ministry’s recommendation but what I do not trust are the innate biases and lack of critical thought about the implications of these decisions. I do not trust that I can walk into a grocery store with my face covered and not be disturbed and I do not trust that I will not be followed or stigmatized,” a shopper said.
To ensure you take the necessary precautionary measures to secure your loved ones, homes and properties, here are some few tips that have been given by the security agencies to help the citizenry during this era of COVID-19 and beyond.
Ensure proper lighting, ensure doors and gates are properly locked at night – never lock a gate using a padlock from outside at night. Those that can tolerate guard dogs can get a few, those with security fences must ensure they are working. If you can get CCTV systems in place, please do (the fear of being caught is often one of the greatest deterrents to crime), and limit late nights.
Be aware of your surroundings – take note of parked cars, individuals loitering, etc. Those in estates must ensure they have an emergency response plan (what happens if you or your neighbors are under attack? Do you have a way of rapidly alerting the estate security?). Ensure all your domestic workers are properly vetted and get an insurance plan if possible.
If your car has an alarm system, always sleep with the remote by your bedside. If you have cause to suspect that someone is trying to forcefully gain entrance into your home, activate the alarm. In a residential environment, this is usually very loud and hopefully will scare the criminals away. Be your neighbours keeper, look out for them. If you have information or observe something that can help, please speak up.
Try as much as possible to get home while it’s still light outside, be observant of vehicles and individuals around you, reduce the use of mobile phones, tablets and laptops in traffic (especially if you do not have tinted glasses), do not keep bags, wallets or any valuable item on the chair – this also applies when parking in a public place.
Keep your car doors locked at all times – this also applies when parking in a public place; while driving home, lookout for cars following you, look out for cars parked too close to your gate and watch out for unfamiliar individuals in your neighborhood.
Reduce the use of third-party individuals to handle the transportation of your loved ones, do not allow your drivers/gatemen know your travel/daily itinerary, do not make unscheduled stops in questionable areas – if you have a flat, manage the car to a properly lit place. (Worst case scenario is that the tyre may get damaged).
Ensure you carry out comprehensive background on existing and new domestic staff hires, reduce road trips – try travelling by air if the option is available, always let your loved ones know where you are and when you should be expected home.
Always know the whereabouts of your loved ones and their itinerary – get frequent updates and act immediately you feel something is out of place, avoid excessive and public show of wealth, when giving, as much as possible, do so anonymously.
So if you have a business and you have these types of concerns, make sure you have good camera systems in place so they can assist you to capture those individuals who might have intent try to do bad during this time of crisis, and be very wary of having business discussions around drivers, especially those that concern money, projects, affiliation with known individuals, etc.
By Seth Danquah