President reinforces COVID-19 restrictions - Ban on post-event receptions

BY: Rosalind K. Amoh
Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo
Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo

The President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has reinforced the ban on all post-event receptions and restricted all mass gatherings to two hours.

Delivering his 26th Address to update the nation on the COVID-19 situation in the country yesterday, President Akufo-Addo said the decision was to ensure that social gatherings did not become the sources of infection.

“Given that people sitting together to eat, drink, laugh, dance and talk in large gatherings, without masks, are the riskiest activities for spreading the virus, all post-event receptions, particularly related to weddings and funerals, are banned.”

Consequently, he has re-emphasised that all social events and gatherings must now be held in open air spaces and within two hours; seating must be with a metre distance while wearing of face masks in public as well as on commercial vehicles and in market places continue to be mandatory.

The ban, which comes into effect immediately, is the latest intervention by the government to deal with the resurgence of the virus in the country.

Situation

After months of restrictions enforced in 2020 during the initial outbreak of the pandemic in the country, President Akufo-Addo in his regular updates, announced the gradual ease of restrictions as the situation improved.

However, the outbreak of the Delta variant of the virus in the country and the steady rise of cases being recorded have necessitated the reintroduction of the restrictions.

As of Friday, July 23, 2021, the total number of active cases stood at 4,521.

A total of 1,406,011 tests have been conducted, out of which 102,103 persons have been infected with the virus, and 96,759 persons have recovered.

Third wave

President Akufo-Addo said 10 weeks after he gave the 25th update on the national enhanced response, he wished he had come to announce that the country was ready to lift the restrictions and protocols, and get lives and the economy back to normal.

However, that did not materialise, as based on Ghana Health Service data, “it appears that, unfortunately, our nation, like many others, is experiencing a third wave of COVID-19 infections.

Updating on the data, President Akufo-Addo indicated that during the last update on May16, the total active case count was 1,314, with a daily infection rate at 100.

Besides, 1,121,168 COVID-19 tests had been conducted, out of which 92,460 persons had been infected, with 91,146 persons recovered and 783 deaths.

“There was some ray of hope as the situation improved significantly in a month with active figures standing at 1,200, while daily infections stood at 50 cases and recorded deaths at 10 in a month.

However, he said recent weeks had seen a marked increase in the number of cases.

“ Our daily infection rate for the past week is 350 cases, and, sadly, 40 more people have died from COVID-19 over the last 10 weeks, bringing the cumulative number of deaths to 823 since the onset of the pandemic. Greater Accra and Greater Kumasi Metropolitan areas remain the hotspots of infections.

“This entire development is very alarming.

“Therefore, the COVID-19 Taskforce, which I chair, has recommended that a second look be taken at the protocols that have been put in place for social and public gatherings, in particular, weddings and funerals, across the country,” he stressed.

The increased infections, the President explained, had been propelled by the Delta variant of the virus, which, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), has increased transmissibility rates.

President Akufo-Addo blamed the situation on the disregard for the prescribed protocols, emphasising that “we have let our guard down with many going about their daily duties in clear breach of and disregard for the protocols.”

He said at a time the economy was on the rebound, and business activities picking up, it was incumbent on all to do everything possible to contain the outbreak.

“ We cannot afford to return to the days of partial lockdowns, which brought considerable hardships and difficulties for all of us,” President Akufo-Addo said.

He, therefore, stressed the need for businesses and management of workplaces to revisit the plan of staff management and strict enforcement of the protocols as workplaces had also been affected by the resurgence.

“With workplaces currently witnessing a resurgence in COVID-19 infections, it is important that owners and management of businesses and workplaces implement strictly the guidelines on staff management and workplace protocols such as the use of a shift system and technology, as was required in the earlier days of the pandemic,” he said.

The President also reiterated that all the protocols surrounding all religious activities such as at churches and mosques remained the same, as well as the protocols in schools.

Testing, contact tracing

President Akufo-Addo further indicated that the Ghana Health Service (GHS) had moved to fortify its contact tracing, testing and treating campaigns, especially across the hotspots of Greater Accra and Greater Kumasi Metropolitan areas.

Also, COVID-19 treatment centres continue to be resourced with medical supplies, personal protection equipment and health workers.

Additionally, the existing arrangement at the Kotoka International Airport which has all arriving passengers come along with a negative PCR test result of a test which should have been conducted not more than 72 hours before the scheduled departure from the country of origin is still in force.

Furthermore, all passengers will continue to be subjected to a mandatory COVID-19 test on arrival.

Vaccines

President Akufo-Addo emphasised that despite the huge global demand which had affected the easy access to vaccines, the government was determined to carry through its commitment to vaccinate the entire adult population in the country.

“Fellow Ghanaians, indications are that in the course of this quarter of the year, the availability of vaccines for our country will ramp up.

“Government is, therefore, standing by its commitment to vaccinate 20 million Ghanaians, that is the entire adult population, by the end of this year, in spite of the huge global demand for vaccines by countries and the surge in infections the world over,” the President said.

The President indicated that through the COVAX facility and the African Union, the government was expecting 1,229,670 doses of the Pfizer vaccines from the Government of the United States of America and 249,000 AstraZeneca vaccines from the Government of the United Kingdom.

Also, the government was in the process of procuring 17 million single dose per person Johnson & Johnson vaccines through the African Medicine Supply Platform in this quarter.

Preparedness

To ensure the safety of these vaccines, President Akufo-Addo intimated that the national, regional and district cold chain facilities had been upgraded in order to widen access to vaccines such as Pfizer and Modena, that require minus seventy degrees Celsius (-70) cold chains.

He stressed that the vaccines to be used had been certified as safe-for-use by the Food and Drugs Authority and, thus, encouraged all who were yet to receive their shots to avail themselves to be vaccinated.

“Fellow Ghanaians, it is important to stress, once again, that all the vaccines to be used in the country have been certified as safe-for-use by our national regulatory agency, the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA). There should, therefore, be no hesitancy amongst the population who are yet to be vaccinated. As the oft-cited saying goes, it is better to be safe than sorry,” the President said.

Vaccine hub

President Akufo-Addo announced that the committee he set up to investigate Ghana’s potential as a vaccine manufacturing hub to meet national and regional needs, had submitted its preliminary report.

The committee, chaired by world-renowned Ghanaian scientist, Professor Kwabena Frimpong Boateng, in its report, among others, has recommended the establishment of a National Vaccine Institute to spearhead this development.

The government, the President indicated, had committed to inject seed funding of US$25 million this year into this whole enterprise.

The institute, when established, would be charged with delivering six clear mandates which would include the
establishment of local vaccine manufacturing plants, deepening Research & Development (R&D) for vaccines in Ghana as well as upgrading and strengthening the FDA.

The institute will also be required to forge bilateral and multilateral partnerships for vaccine manufacturing in various areas, such as funding, clinical trials, technology transfer, licensing, and assignment of intellectual property rights.

Again, they would be expected to help build the human resource base for vaccine discovery, development, and manufacture as well as establish a permanent national secretariat to coordinate vaccine development and manufacture.