As part of measures to control the spread of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) in Ghana, President Nana Akufo-Addo on March 15, 2020 announced a number of measures put in place to control the spread of the virus. The measures included restrictions on movement and public gatherings such as conferences, workshops, funerals, festivals, political rallies and church activities.
To provide a legal backing to government’s outlined restrictions, the Attorney General of Ghana, Gloria Akuffo, on March 18, laid the Impositions of Restrictions Bill 2020 before the Parliament of Ghana under a certificate of urgency in accordance with Article 21 (4) (c) and (d) of Ghana’s 1992 Constitution. The bill received Presidential assent on March 21, 2020 to become the The Imposition of Restriction Act, 2020 (Act 1012).
Below are the key facts of the Impositions of Restrictions Law:
- Specific Restriction to be imposed:
- The closing of Ghana’s borders to both foreign and local nationals
- The lockdown of the Greater Accra and Kumasi Metropolitan Areas in Ghana
- Residents within areas above are to stay indoors and can only leave their residences for essentials such as the purchase of food and visit the public toilets among others.
- Reasons for the Imposition of Restrictions
- It is in the best interest of defence, public health and safety
- It is to safeguard the people in Ghana in accordance with the spirit of the Constitution.
- It is to limit movement or residence within Ghana
- It is to restrict the freedom of entry into Ghana or within Ghana
- Duration of the Restrictions
Restrictions should not be imposed for more than a period of Three (3) months. However, by an Executive Order from the President of the Republic, the duration may either be shortened or extended for a period of not more than one (1) month at a time.
However, in any event the extension should not be for a period of more than three (3) months, except in cases where there are exigencies.
Exigencies as defined by the Act include
- An increase or decrease of the intensity of the disaster, an emergency or any similar circumstance
- A significant change in the nature of the disaster, emergency or similar circumstance.
Exempt categories under the Act include
- Members of the Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary;
- Production, distribution and marketing of food, beverages, pharmaceuticals, medicine, paper and plastic packages;
- Environmental and sanitation activities;
- VALCO staff
- Road and Railway construction workers;
- Mining workers;
- Fisher folk;
- Members of the security agencies assigned lawful duties;
- The staff of electricity, water, telecommunications, e-commerce and digital service providers; and
- Fuel stations staff.
5. Offences and Penalties
Anyone who flouts the above restrictions as indicated in the law will be liable to
- summary conviction (that is, being found guilty and convicted of the offence without a court trial)
- Fines (not less than one thousand penalty units) and not more than five thousand penalty units
NB: A penalty unit in Ghana is the equivalent of twelve (12) Ghana cedis
- A term of imprisonment of not less than four (4) years and not more than ten (10) years or both.
6. Key Definitions
Disaster: occurrence by which there is a general disruption of general safety endangering the life and health of many people or large material interest which require co-ordinated action by services of different disciplines and flood, earthquake, drought, rainstorm, war, civil strife or industrial accident.
Essential Services: The Act lists the following:
- Water and electricity supply services
- Health and Hospital services
- Waste management
- Air Traffic and Civil Aviation Control Services
- Meteorological Services
- Fire Services
- Air Transport Services
- Supply and Distribution of Fuel
- Telecommunication and
- Public and Private transport services.
Sources: The 1992 Constitution of Ghana
The Imposition of Restriction Act, 2020 (Act 1012)
The Criminal Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29)