Editorial : Testing Legislators for COVID-19 was pragmatic

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A laboratory technician prepares COVID-19 patient samples for semi-automatic testing at Northwell Health Labs, Wednesday, March 11, 2020, in Lake Success, N.Y. The US Food and Drug Administration has approved faster testing protocols as the viral outbreak continues to spread worldwide. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms. For some it can cause more severe illness. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Speaker of Parliament Mike Oquaye last week directed the Medical Directorate of the legislative body to conduct mandatory tests for all the 275 MPs and auxiliary workers at Parliament – and the word going round is that some have tested positive for the dreaded virus.

While Parliament’s Public Affairs Directorate has come out to refute such findings, Minority Chief Whip, Mubarak Mohammed Muntaka, has disputed a claim. However, Speaker of Parliament Prof. Mike Oquaye believes public disclosure of the tests is not the right thing to do, since it may have the propensity to engender stigmatisation.

Indeed, medical records are generally a private matter – unless, of course, the individuals concerned have no problem with public disclosure. Suffice it to say, the Speaker of Parliament did the right thing by ordering testing for officials who work in the legislature. Since the individuals concerned are public officials working in our highest national institution, revealing their status should not be an issue since they have an obligation to set an example for the general population to do the right thing under these difficult conditions brought about by COVID-19.  We believe making public the status of legislators and other workers in Parliament serves a very useful purpose.

The school of thought that since legislators are public figures, the public has a right to know the status of their representatives holds water since constituents often approach their legislators on issues of concern, and knowing their status can guide them on how to act.

The British prime minister caught the virus and was even on a ventilator in hospital before his eventual recovery and discharge, and that did not stop the work of government. The president of the USA happily discloses the outcome of tests carried out on him to assure his countrymen that he is fit, hale and hearty.

Bearing these examples in mind, it is inexplicable that the Speaker would go to such lengths to conceal the status of infected MPs just to prevent stigmatisation. Well, one thing for certain is the that virus has infected many people as the figures released show; and it is high time for Ghanaians to approach the issue with all the seriousness it deserves.

Many Ghanaians believe the virus is not as widespread as purported, and informing them of such developments proves that no one is immune and we must adhere strictly to the health protocols. We are happy that the exercise took place and those infected are being isolated and contact-traced.

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