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Upsurge in COVID-19 cases in Ghana; Social activities restricted [FULL ADDRESS]

BY: Rosalind K. Amoh

The President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has re-imposed restrictions on some daily routines, following the wave of upsurge in COVID-19 cases.

Until further notice, therefore, funerals, weddings, concerts, theatrical performances and parties are banned.

Private burials, with no more than 25 people, could take place, but with strict enforcement of the social distancing, hygiene and mask-wearing protocols, the President said Sunday in his 23rd update on the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said the imposition of restrictions on some daily routines in the past helped in reducing the rate of infection in the country, noting that with the numbers surging, the government had no choice but to reintroduce some of those measures in order to help save the situation.

“So, Fellow Ghanaians, until further notice, funerals, weddings, concerts, theatrical performances and parties are banned.

“Private burials, with no more than 25 people, can take place, with the enforcement of the social distancing, hygiene and mask-wearing protocols,” he said, after giving a grim update on the rising number of cases of the infection.

Context

The President started his broadcast at exactly 8 p.m. last night with the stark facts on Ghana’s COVID-19 situation to drum home the need for the raft of rehashed measures to contain the resurgence.

“I came into your homes, on 17th January, to give an account of our COVID-19 situation — a situation which, per available data at the time, was not good,” he said.

He said two weeks on from that address, “the situation is even worse”.

President Akufo-Addo indicated that as of Friday, January 29, 64 more people had died, bringing the number of deaths to 416.

He also said hospitalisation rates were increasing, with 172 people now critically or severely ill.

The hospitals, he further indicated, had become full, compelling the government to now reactivate isolation centres, with the average daily rate of infection now at 700, compared to 200 two weeks ago.

“The total number of active cases has more than doubled, from a little over 1,900 two weeks ago to 5,358 currently.

“When I delivered Update No. 22, 13 out of the 16 regions had recorded active cases; today, all 16 regions have active cases.

Indeed, the Greater Accra, Central, Western, Ashanti, Eastern, Upper East, Upper West, Volta and Northern regions are the hardest hit, accounting for 94 per cent of the total number of active cases.

“I know these measures, in the recent past, were unpleasant, but, over a period, they resulted in a favourable situation for our country. We have to return to them,” he said.

He emphasised that all beaches, night clubs, cinemas and pubs would continue to be shut, as well as all land and sea borders.

Work from home, virtual events

President Akufo-Addo stressed the need to employ all the measures that helped in curbing the spread of the virus when it hit the country last year, directing that all workplaces, public and private, “must employ a shift system for workers, in addition to the use of virtual platforms for business or work”.

While conferences and workshops were permitted, with all the appropriate protocols, he, however, encouraged organisers to use virtual platforms for such engagements.

Eateries

He also directed restaurants to provide takeaway services and avoid seated services as much as possible.

Sports, religious gatherings

The President said the National Sports Authority and the Ghana Football Association “should ensure compliance with the 25 per cent capacity rule in all stadia, with spectators complying with the safety protocols, especially the social distancing rule and the wearing of face masks”.

While commending the various religious groups for adhering to the protocols, he urged leaders of churches, mosques and other religious organisations to enforce to the letter the protocols relating to attendance.

They include the two-hour duration for holding services, observing one-metre social distancing, wearing face masks, using hand sanitiser and the presence of Veronica buckets, liquid soap and tissue paper for the washing of hands.

President Akufo-Addo said the analysis continued to indicate that the spread of the virus mostly occurred indoors, in confined spaces with poor ventilation where people talked, sung or shouted without their face masks.

Schools reopening

Since the reopening of schools two weeks ago, he said, only a few cases had been reported among students.

He, therefore, appealed to school authorities and teachers to enforce the guidelines provided by the Ghana Education Service.

“I urge the Ghana Health Service to continue its surveillance in schools, so we can contain any reported cases,” he stressed.

Education and regulation

President Akufo-Addo also stressed that as the government stepped up public education and enforcement of the protocols on public gatherings, the regulatory agencies would undertake random checks to ensure conformity with the rules.

He said the security services would also be tasked to enforce them.

“You do not have to be arrested by the police before you wear your mask; your workplace should not be closed for non-conformity with the protocols,” he said.

He said “if there is no urgent reason for you to be outside, please stay at home”.

He insisted that each person could help contain the spread of the virus if he/she continued to practise the measures of social distancing, washing our hands with soap under running water, refraining from shaking hands and wearing face masks outside of the home.

Burden on travellers to Ghana

President Akufo-Addo confirmed that at the 58th Summit of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Heads of State had agreed that the cost of COVID-19 tests for all ECOWAS citizens travelling within the sub-region be reduced to $50, but the cost of testing remained at $150 for all non-ECOWAS nationals.

Also, ECOWAS nationals and travellers from other countries who tested positive would bear the cost of the mandatory isolation and treatment, he said.

However, the state would bear the cost of isolation and treatment of all travelling Ghanaians who tested positive on arrival in Ghana, he added.

“At the 58th Summit of the Authority of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government, held virtually, it was agreed that the cost of the COVID-19 test for in-bound ECOWAS nationals be pegged at $50 at the Kotoka International Airport.

“The cost of the test for non-ECOWAS nationals still remains $150. ECOWAS nationals and travellers who test positive will bear the cost of the mandatory isolation and treatment.

“Ghanaian nationals, however, who test positive on their arrival into the country will have their isolation and treatment costs borne by the State,” he stressed.

Vaccines

President Akufo-Addo again gave an assurance that Ghana was set to procure its first consignment of COVID-19 vaccines within the first half of this year.

He said a lot of work had gone into realising the plan, stressing that the aim was to vaccinate the entire population, with an initial target of 20 million people.

“Our aim is to vaccinate the entire population, with an initial target of 20 million people.

“Through bilateral and multilateral means, we are hopeful that by the end of June, a total of 17.6 million vaccine doses would have been procured for the Ghanaian people,” he said.

He hinted that the earliest vaccine would be in the country by March, with the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) expected to use its established processes for granting emergency use authorisation for each vaccine in Ghana, emphasising that only safe COVID-19 vaccines would be administered in Ghana.

“As President of the Republic, I assure you that only vaccines that have been evaluated and declared as safe-for-use in Ghana will be administered,” he stressed.

Returning to normalcy

The President emphasised government’s resolve to return to normal the daily routines of Ghanaians, stressing that the response team would continue to monitor the situation and come up with plans to achieve that.

He, however, emphasised that an early return could only be achieved if everyone embraced fully the safety protocols.

“I remain hopeful that if each one of us embraces fully the safety protocols, and we continue to put our faith in the Almighty, we will emerge strongly from this pandemic,” President Akufo-Addo said reassuringly.

Below is a copy of the full address

ADDRESS TO THE NATION BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC, NANA ADDO DANKWA AKUFO-ADDO, ON UPDATES TO GHANA’S ENHANCED RESPONSE TO THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC, ON SUNDAY, 31ST JANUARY 2021.

Fellow Ghanaians, good evening.

I came into your homes, on 17th January, to give an account of our COVID-19 situation – a situation which, per available data at the time, was not good. To this end, I appealed to you, my fellow Ghanaians, to help contain the spread of the virus by respecting the protocols Government had put in place. The hope was that we would begin to see an improvement in our case count, as a result. Two weeks on from that address, the situation is even worse.

As at Friday, 29th January, sixty-four (64) more people have, sadly, died, over the last two weeks, bringing the total number of confirmed deaths to four hundred and sixteen (416). Our hospitalisation rates are increasing, with the number of critically and severely ill persons now at one hundred and seventy-two (172). Our hospitals have become full, and we have had to reactivate our isolation centres. Our average daily rates of infection now stand at seven hundred (700), compared to two hundred (200) two weeks ago.

The total number of active cases has more than doubled, from a little over one thousand, nine hundred (1,900), two weeks ago, to five thousand, three hundred and fifty-eight (5,358) currently. When I delivered Update No. 22, thirteen (13) out of the sixteen (16) regions had recorded active cases; today, all sixteen (16) regions have active cases. Indeed, Greater Accra, Central, Western, Ashanti, Eastern, Upper East, Upper West, Volta, and Northern Regions are the hardest hit, accounting for ninety-four percent (94%) of the total number of active cases.

In effect, fellow Ghanaians, we have a lot of work to do in coming to grips with the disease. Given that recent studies show that the UK and other new variants are being transmitted within the population, we should all understand that our current situation could get very dire if efforts are not made, both on the part of Government and by you, the citizenry, to help contain the virus. The analysis continues to tell us that the spread of the virus mostly occurs in indoor, confined spaces with poor ventilation, where people are talking, singing or shouting without their masks.

The imposition of restrictions on our daily routines helped in reducing the prevalence of the pandemic in the country, and Government has been left with no option but to re-introduce some of these restrictions in order to help save the situation. I know these measures, in the recent past, were unpleasant, but, over a period, they resulted in a favourable situation for our country. We have to return to them.

So, fellow Ghanaians, until further notice, funerals, weddings, concerts, theatrical performances, and parties are banned. Private burials, with no more than twenty-five (25) people, can take place, with the enforcement of the social distancing, hygiene and mask wearing protocols.

Beaches, night clubs, cinemas, and pubs continue to be shut. Our borders by land and sea remain closed.

All workplaces, public and private, must employ a shift-system for workers, in addition to the use of virtual platforms for business or work. Conferences and workshops can take place with all the appropriate protocols. However, I encourage the use of virtual platforms for such engagements.

Restaurants should provide take-away services, and should, as much as possible, avoid seated services. The National Sports Authority and the Ghana Football Association should ensure compliance with the twenty-five percent (25%) capacity rule in our stadia, with spectators respecting the social distancing rule and wearing of masks.

To the revered leaders of our religious organisations, i.e. our churches and mosques, I entreat you to enforce, to the letter, the protocols relating to attendance, i.e. the two-hour duration, one-metre social distancing, mask wearing, use of sanitizers, and the presence of veronica buckets, liquid soap, and rolls of tissue paper.

I note that, since the re-opening of our schools, two weeks ago, we have witnessed only few reports of cases amongst students. I appeal to school authorities and teachers to enforce the guidelines provided by the Ghana Education Service, and I urge the Ghana Health Service to continue their surveillance at the schools, so we can contain any reported cases.

As we step up public education and enforcement of the protocols on public gatherings, let me also state that regulatory agencies will undertake random checks to ensure conformity with these rules, and the security services will be tasked to enforce them.

You do not have to be arrested by the Police before you wear your mask, your workplace should not be closed for non-conformity with the protocols, if there is no urgent reason for you to be outside, please stay at home. Each one of us can help to contain the spread if we continue to practice the measures of social distancing, washing our hands with soap under running water, refraining from shaking hands, and, wearing our masks whenever we leave our homes. These measures must be respected by all.

I urge you, my fellow Ghanaians, to continue to pay attention to your health, improve your fitness levels, and eat our local foods that boost your immunity. Should you at any point feel unwell, or exhibit the most common symptoms of COVID-19, such as fever, dry cough, tiredness, please report to the nearest health facility and get tested. COVID-19 tests are free for all Ghanaians at public health institutions. If a Ghanaian citizen returns a positive result, the cost of care at isolation and treatment centres will be borne by Government.

At the 58th Summit of the Authority of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government, held virtually, it was agreed that the cost of the COVID test for in-bound ECOWAS nationals be pegged at fifty United States dollars ($50) at the Kotoka International Airport. The cost of the test for non-ECOWAS nationals still remains one hundred and fifty ($150) dollars. ECOWAS nationals and travelers, who test positive, will bear the cost of the mandatory isolation and treatment. Ghanaian nationals, however, who test positive, upon their arrival into the country, will have their isolation and treatment costs borne by the State.

Fellow Ghanaians, in Update No. 21, I indicated that Ghana is set to procure her first consignment of the COVID vaccines within the first half of this year. Since then, a lot of work has been done towards the realisation of this. Our aim is to vaccinate the entire population, with an initial target of twenty million people. Through bilateral and multilateral means, we are hopeful that, by the end of June, a total of seventeen million, six hundred thousand (17.6 million) vaccine doses would have been procured for the Ghanaian people. The earliest vaccine will be in the country by March. The Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) will use its established processes for granting emergency-use-authorisation for each vaccine in Ghana. As President of the Republic, I assure you that only vaccines that have been evaluated and declared as safe-for-use in Ghana will be administered.

Government will continue to monitor our COVID-19 situation, and will remain resolved in ensuring that we are able to return to normal daily routines. I remain hopeful that if each one of us embraces fully the safety protocols, and we continue to put our faith in the Almighty, we will emerge strongly from this pandemic.

My faith in God tells me that this too shall pass! For the Battle is the Lords!!

May God bless us all, and our homeland Ghana, and make her great and strong.

I thank you for your attention.