The wearing of nose masks is now mandatory in all areas across the country, the President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has announced.
He said leaving home without a nose mask or face covering on was an offence and the police had been instructed to enforce the directive, which is the subject of an Executive Instrument.
“Let me repeat: our survival is in our own hands. If we are lax and inattentive, we will continue to have serious challenges with the virus. If we are mindful and self-disciplined, we have it in us to defeat this pandemic and help return our lives to normalcy,” the President said when he addressed the nation for the 11th time to update citizens on measures taken to contain the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Justifying the phased easing of restrictions towards full normalcy, he stressed: “We do not have to lose our sense of community because of this pandemic.”
He added that the government, through the Ghana Health Service (GHS), which continued to monitor, on a daily basis, the spread of the virus, had populated benchmarks of health outcomes which defined the mitigation measures that must be pursued to curb the spread of the disease.
The benchmarks, he said, would also enable the country to reassess the easing of restrictions.
President Akufo-Addo reminded residents of the Greater Accra and the Ashanti regions, where the great majority of cases had been recorded, and in the Western and Central regions, where there was an increase in infection cases, to continue to adhere strictly to the physical distancing and enhanced hygiene protocols.
“With the doctors and scientists telling us that the virus is transmitted from human contact, through talking, singing, coughing and sneezing, which results in sending droplets of the virus from one person to another, residents of these four regions, and, indeed, all Ghanaians, must remember that the wearing of masks is now mandatory,” he said.
He expressed the belief that living safely amid the pandemic was the surest way to realising the collective vision of building a new Ghanaian civilisation, where the rule of law was not a slogan but a directive principle of state development and where the country delivered social and economic transformation that had a meaningful impact on the lives of all the people.
That collective vision, he added, also included “where a strong and vibrant economy creates jobs for the masses of our young people and, in the process, creates a society of opportunities and aspirations for all; where we are no longer pawns nor victims of the world order; and where the vision of our founder fathers of a free, progressive and prosperous Ghana is attained”.
“Let us, together, rise to the occasion and fulfill our common destiny. We can do it!” he stressed.
Testing, tracing, treatment
President Akufo-Addo said the increase in the number of case count, which had given cause for anxiety among Ghanians, was also an indication that the virus had spread and continued to do so.
He said once the country had adopted the enhanced surveillance approach, which tested more people, the more people were tested, the more likely it was to discover positive cases, but that came with the opportunity to isolate and treat them.
“If we do not test people for the virus, we will not find the persons who are positive, let alone isolate them from the population, treat them and prevent them from spreading the virus,” he said.
He said the success of Ghana’s tracing, testing and treating, which was different from the slow pace approach adopted by other developing countries, would eventually lead to a reduction in the number of cases, saying: “That is what we are working for.”
President Akufo-Addo emphasised that Ghana could not just give up interest in issues of social justice, such as education and health, stressing that education was the key to the future of our country.
He said the quality of education that our educational institutions offered would, ultimately, determine the success or otherwise of the nation.
Confirming the partial reopening of schools for all final-year students at the various levels of the educational ladder, he gave an assurance that the government would do everything within its power to protect the potential and thereby help preserve the future.
“So, from tomorrow, operating with half the class size, final-year students will begin a six-week period of learning to finish their respective programmes,” he said.
He also indicated that prior to the reopening of the schools, the government, through the Ministry of Education and the Ghana Education Service (GES), had ensured that all tertiary institutions, public and private, had been disinfected.
Universities with their own hospitals and clinics had been equipped with the necessary personal protective equipment and had isolation centres to deal with any positive cases, he said.
He added that all other institutions without their own clinics and hospitals had been mapped to health facilities.
Protocols in schools
President Akufo-Addo stressed that no mass gatherings nor sporting activities would be allowed on the various campuses.
However, religious activities, under the new protocol of 100 people for an hour service or worship, would be permitted on campuses.
He also re-emphasised the need for strict adherence to the safety and preventive protocols, stressing that it had to be the norm on the various campuses.
“Physical distancing and the wearing of nose masks must become the norm on campus. To aid in this effort, a total of 600,000 face masks have been distributed to the tertiary institutions. This is to enable every student, teaching and non-teaching staff to have three reusable nose masks,” he said.
He also mentioned the Veronica buckets, hand sanitiser, liquid soap and thermometer guns that had been dispatched to the universities.
President Akufo-Addo said he had been assured of the support of the vice-chancellors of the various public universities when he met them last week and stressed that it was the government’s intention to secure the lives of all students, lecturers and non-teaching staff who would be returning to the campuses.
He appealed to the groups to also do their bit to ensure that the intervention succeeded.
“Our intention is to secure the lives of the nearly 200,000 students, lecturers and non-teaching staff who will be returning to campus from tomorrow, and I appeal to them also to do their bit to help us succeed.
“I urge them to adhere to enhanced personal hygiene and physical distancing protocols, wash their hands with soap under running water, refrain from shaking hands and wear their masks to, in and from the lecture halls and on the campus, generally.
“We have to do everything within our power to protect their potential and, thereby, help preserve our future,” the President said.
He said the country could not afford to let the pandemic undermine its chances for survival and progress, saying: “We have to confront our present and future with confidence, knowing fully well that we must remain, at all times, vigilant and careful.”
President Akufo-Addo called on all citizens to pay attention to their health and seek immediate medical attention at the nearest health facility when they began to experience symptoms such as fever, persistent cough, bodily pains, loss of taste and smell and difficulty in breathing.
He expressed concern about the stigma associated with the disease, saying stories of persons who had recovered from the disease being shunned by their own relatives and communities were a source of considerable worry to him, adding: “They undermine our efforts to fight it. There is nothing shameful about testing positive.”