The Speaker of Parliament, Professor Aaron Mike Oquaye, has reiterated his directive to all members and staff of Parliament as well as members of the Parliamentary Press Corps to avail themselves of the mandatory coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) test being organised by the Parliamentary Service Board.
He reminded them that the one-week exercise by a team from the National COVID-19 taskforce would resume on Thursday and Friday, hence those who had not yet been screened should do so.
“Every Member of Parliament, every staff of Parliament are to test for Covid-19. The Press Corps must also submit themselves for testing,” he directed.
Speaking on the floor of the House today (Tuesday) to drive home the need for everybody to take advantage of the exercise, Prof. Oquaye said “Honourables, further to the test taken last week it is imperative that we take this matter very seriously.
“Please, the decision is that, in our collective interest, it is mandatory. Please do not wait till we get to the state of applying sanctions,” he warned.
On May 19, the Speaker directed the Clerk and Medical Officer of Parliament to liaise with the appropriate institution to undertake testing of all Members of Parliament and staff of the Parliamentary Service for COVID-19.
He said the exercise formed part of measures to stop the spread of the virus among legislators and staff of the legislative body.
Prof. Oquaye said to ensure confidentiality, elaborate steps had been taken to ensure the observation of all appropriate protocols in the light of the results.
“There will be absolute confidentiality and professionalism in handling all cases, negative and positive. Please let us be advised accordingly,” he said.
Meanwhile, the leadership of Parliament has described as untrue media reports that two members and 13 staff of Parliament had tested positive for COVID-19.
Addressing a press briefing over reports by STARR FM, an Accra-based radio station, the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, described the report as speculative.
“The agreement for the test was that anybody whose results came out positive will only be known to that person, be it a staff, journalist or a Member of Parliament.
“The information on any person who tested positive will not be transmitted to the leadership of Parliament but to the individual involved.
“It is between the person and the people who did the test and some confidentiality is required in these matters and we need to be circumspect, “he stated.
He said that neither he nor the Clerk-to-Parliament and the Director of Public Affairs knew the outcome of the screening exercise, and pleaded with the media not to engage in such “unhallowed speculative journalism.”
You may succeed unconsciously in discouraging and repelling people to submit themselves and yet we need this for survival as an institution,” he said.
He stated that the rationale behind the exercise was for the results to be made known only to the participants and not the public.
“They are only speculating that two Members of Parliament have tested positive. This is speculative journalism. We will want to let you know that there is no truth in that,” he said.
Retract story immediately
For her part, the Director of Public Affairs of Parliament, Ms Kate Addo, said no results of the MPs and staff of Parliament who were screened for COVID-19 had been made available to Parliament.
She, therefore, described the STARR FM report as one that was intended to create fear and panic.
“We will like to request that the respected station retract and come to us. We are ready to give whatever information that we have and if they have concrete information they will put out their sources so that we will all have our peace of mind,” she said.