President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo
Ghana is getting closer to full normal life, as President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has announced the easing of more coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions.
In the latest streak of easing, the President lifted the cap on the number of people who can attend conferences, workshops and award events, subject to the maintenance of social distancing among participants, ventilation of the premises and a two-hour limit for each session.
He also indicated that the opening of the borders by air could start from September 1, this year.
In his 15th address to the nation last night on the status of Ghana’s coordinated effort to defeat the COVID-19, the President said: “We have gradually moved to restoring normalcy in some aspects of our lives. Our phased approach towards returning our lives to normal, through the strategic, controlled, progressive and safe easing of restrictions, will, thus, continue.”
The President said continuing students in some tertiary institutions would return to school on August 24, this year to finish their academic year.
They include students of the University of Cape Coast (UCC), the University of Health and Allied Sciences (UHAS), Ho, the technical universities and some other colleges that had not completed their studies for the academic year.
That was because, he explained, through online learning portals, almost all continuing students in the universities, except those of the UCC, the UHAS, Ho, the technical universities and some other colleges, had completed their studies for the academic year.
President Akufo-Addo said the government, through the Ministry of Education and the Ghana Education Service (GES), would ensure that all the tertiary institutions that would welcome students were disinfected.
“Universities will be equipped with the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE), and those with their own hospitals and clinics will have isolation centres to deal with any positive cases. All other institutions without their own clinics and hospitals will be mapped to health facilities,” he said.
He also banned mass gatherings and sporting activities on the university campuses, stressing that social distancing and the wearing of nose masks must become the norm on the campuses.
However, he said, religious activities would be permitted under the new protocols.
The President said he had directed the Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection to begin preparations to provide one hot meal a day to all 584,000 final-year junior high school (JHS) students, and the 146,000 staff, in both public and private schools, from August 24 up to September 18.
That was to help them to fully observe the COVID-19 safety protocols, as reports indicated that the compliance had led to some final-year JHS students going hungry.
The President also said the Ministry of Education was still engaging the GES and all relevant stakeholders to conclude modalities for the reopening of pre-tertiary schools.
He gave an assurance that he would always take into consideration the safety and well-being of the children, teachers and non-teaching staff in the decisions that would be taken.
Although the borders remain closed to human traffic, he gave the indication that reopening the border by air could start on September 1, this year.
“I want to ensure that we are in a position to test every single passenger who arrives in the country to avoid the spread of the virus. The outcome of that exercise will show us the way and determine when we can reopen our border by air. I am hoping that, by God’s grace, we will be ready to do so by 1st September,” President Akufo-Addo stated.
He said the Ministry of Aviation, the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority and the Ghana Airports Company Limited had been working with the Ministry of Health and its agencies to ascertain the country’s readiness to reopen the Kotoka International Airport.
“Until further notice, our borders, by air, land and sea, remain closed to human traffic. For Ghana residents stranded abroad, special dispensation will continue to be given for their evacuation back to Ghana, where they will be subjected to the mandatory quarantine and safety protocols,” he said.
He stressed that the beaches, pubs, cinemas and nightclubs were to remain closed until further notice.
Voters registration successful
The President lauded the Electoral Commission (EC) for doing a brilliant job in the midst of the pandemic.
He said the EC rose to the occasion to ensure that all eligible voters were given the unfettered opportunity to register.
Making reference to his 14th update on July 26, this year, he indicated that the data, especially with active cases at the time, showed clearly that the country was on the path towards limiting, containing and, ultimately, defeating the virus.
As of that period, he said, the number of active cases was 3,307, but as of Saturday, August 15, this year, three weeks later, the number of active cases stood at 1,847, a development he described as a clear indication that the government’s policies were working.
“Currently, there are no recorded COVID-19 cases in the North East, Savannah, Upper East and Upper West regions, and I charge their residents to do everything possible to maintain that situation. The Greater Accra, Ashanti, Central, Eastern and Western regions continue to be the regions with the highest number of active cases,” he said.
To date, President Akufo-Addo said, 40,567 people had recovered from the disease, which indicated an improvement in the recovery rate from 89.5 per cent to 95.1 per cent in three weeks.
“Our death rate continues, mercifully, to be low at 0.5 per cent,” he said, and added: “Happily, there are no backlogs of tests at any of our testing centres, meaning that situational reports are up to date.”
So far, he said, 427,121 tests had been conducted and noted that test results that used to take weeks were now available in 48 hours.
“These statistics undermine, as unfounded, the claim that Ghana has lost the battle to defeat COVID-19. There can only be one simple reason for this baseless assertion, and that is political expediency,” he said.
He once again paid tribute to health workers for their dedication to duty.
“We can help them even further by continuing to adhere to the social distancing and hygiene protocols we have instituted to stem the tide of infections,” he said.
Nose mask use
President Akufo-Addo said a survey conducted by the Ghana Health Service into the use of nose masks at selected places in Accra this month revealed that over 82 per cent of the people surveyed used masks.
“I believe we can do even more and better and reach one 100 per cent,” he added.
He reminded Ghanaians that the opening up of the country in phases continued to put an obligation and responsibility on everybody to remain vigilant and respect the enhanced hygiene, mask-wearing and social distancing protocols that had become part and parcel of the daily routine.
“They are proving to be effective, so let us employ them wholeheartedly. That is the way we can restore, as quickly as possible, the blessings of normalcy for which we all yearn,” President Akufo-Addo said, adding: “There is no room for complacency.”