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COVID-19: Incentive package for health workers extended by 3 more months

BY: News Desk Report

The President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has extended the tax holiday provided for all health workers in the country for another three months.

“This means that all health workers will pay no income taxes for the next three months, that is July, August and September,” the President said in his 13th update on the country’s enhanced response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, last night.

President Akufo-Addo added that all frontline health workers, as defined by the Ministry of Health, would continue to receive the additional allowance of 50 per cent of their basic salary per month, for July, August and September.

The President first announced the incentive package for health workers in his fifth update to the nation on Sunday, April 5, 2020. The “thank you” package was for all health workers for the months of April, May and June.

Implementation challenges

He said although the implementation of the incentives for frontline workers had some challenges, particularly, regarding the definition of a “frontline worker, ” I have, however, been assured that they have now been resolved, and payments will be effected from the end of June.”

President Akufo-Addo reiterated that the insurance package for health workers was still in place.

The government is providing insurance for each health personnel and allied professionals at the forefront of the fight against the coronavirus to the tune of GH¢350,000.

Charge

While commending the efforts of health workers, he also urged them to remain professional and compassionate, stressing “every avoidable death, be it coronavirus-related or not, is a tragedy”.

“Let us all be reminded, in our daily routines, that adhering to the enhanced social distancing and hygiene protocols will not only save our lives, but also prevent our healthcare infrastructure from being over-burdened.”

BECE candidates

President Akufo-Addo said from today, Monday, June 29, 2020, about 532,000 final-year junior high school (JHS) students in 17,439 schools across the country are returning to school to prepare and sit the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE).

Joining them are about 218,000 teaching and non-teaching staff as well as invigilators, bringing the total number of persons going back to school to about 750,000.

Protection

Emphasing the importance the government attached to the protection of students as well as the teaching and non-teaching staff returning to school, the President said certain measures had been adopted to bring the objectives to fruition.

He stated: “To protect the lives of these students, and all other personnel, government has put in place the relevant measures, in consultation with the Conference of Heads of Basic Schools and Regional and District Directors of Education and Health. Like senior high schools (SHSs), universities and other tertiary institutions, all junior high schools across the country had been fumigated and disinfected”.

“Additionally, we have procured and distributed 45,000 Veronica buckets, 90,000 gallons of liquid soap, 90,000 rolls of tissue  paper, 40,000 thermometer guns, 750,000 pieces of 200 mils of sanitiser, and 2.2 million reusable face masks, i.e. three per person, all with the intent of guaranteeing the safety of the students, teaching and two non-teaching staff. “

Furthermore, he said, two masks each would be delivered today, and the third within the next two weeks.

Adherence

President Akufo-Addo expressed satisfaction with the adherence to the enhanced hygiene and social distancing protocols in the universities and other tertiary institutions, as well as senior high schools.

Admitting that there had been few hitches surrounding the reopening, he nevertheless submitted that largely, it had been smooth and seamless.

President Akufo-Addo said the government was determined to ensure that the adherence to safety protocols in the JHSs also became successful.

“So, through the District Directors of Education and the District Directors of Health, a COVID-19 sensitisation programme will be organised for all headteachers and their teaching staff from Monday, the first day of school. This will ensure that the dos and don’ts of the protocols are clearly spelt out for the teachers for onward transmission to the students. JHS Three students will be in school for 11 weeks of preparation and revision, before spending the following week to take the BECE,” he stated.

He said there would be not more than 30 students in a class, and there would be a reduced school day, with students reporting to school at 9a.m., and closing at 1p.m. Besides, there will be no breaks outside the classroom while assemblies and sporting events have been banned. In addition to that, outsiders have been stopped from using school premises for religious and other activities.

Health facilities

The President said each basic school had been mapped to a health facility, and care would be provided to the sick in those health facilities by nurses assigned to these schools.

“I assure all parents and guardians that government will not put the lives of 750,000 students, teachers and non-teaching staff, who will be returning to school from tomorrow, at risk.

While urging all to adhere strictly to the safety protocols, the President added: “ Our survival, I repeat, is in our own hands, and, together, we can defeat this virus.”

Weapons of battle

On case count, President Akufo-Addo said as of Saturday, the country had recorded 17,351 confirmed cases, with 12,994 recoveries, representing about 75 per cent of positives.

“This means that currently, we have 4,245 active cases, having conducted 294,867 tests, one of the highest on the continent,” he said.

He said 30 people were severely and critically ill, and 112 had died, constituting 0.6 per cent of positives, which was one of the lowest death rates in the world.

President Akufo-Addo reiterated the hygiene protocols, entreating everyone to wash the hands with soap under running water, use alcohol-based sanitiser, maintain social distancing, avoid person to person contact and “eat our local foods that boost our immune systems”.

He also reminded the public to wear masks at all times “when we leave our homes”, insisting that “these are the weapons of our battle.”

The President said if all persons remained on guard up at all times, it would reduce the pandemic to a blip — an unexpected, minor and temporary deviation from a general trend — on the country’s  march towards sustained development, progress and prosperity.

Seek medical attention

The President called on all to seek immediate medical attention at the nearest health facility when they start to experience symptoms such as fever, persistent cough, bodily pains, loss of taste and smell and difficulty in breathing.

“There should be no fear of stigmatisation or embarrassment with being diagnosed with COVID-19,” he stated.

Buttressing his point, President Akufo-Addo explained that the Ghana Health Service (GHS) had observed that most of the patients that had been lost to the virus, died either on arrival at the hospital or within 48 hours after arrival.

He said most patients, who were critically ill and needed intensive care, did survive the virus because they sought medical help promptly.

For example, he said, out of 53 patients admitted to intensive care units (ICU) at the Ga East Municipal Hospital and the University of Ghana Medical Centre, since the pandemic struck, 44, that is 83 per cent, had fully recovered and had been discharged.

He expressed regret that there were still some people in the country who were not taking the dangers associated with this disease seriously, and, therefore, did not seek medical help as soon as they had symptoms that suggested an infection of the virus.