- It has been some time since I last came into your homes on a matter that has grabbed not only our attention, but that of every country in the world. However, as Christmas approaches, with its attendant, charged activities and with an expected influx of visitors, it is important that I come back into your homes to provide an update on what Government is doing to combat the pandemic, and what is expected of you, the Ghanaian people, in this season.
- When I delivered the last update, I indicated that, in spite of the efforts to rid the nation of COVID-19, the fight was far from over, as we had begun to experience a third wave of COVID-19 infections, driven largely by the delta variant.
- The data tells us that the months of August and September, in particular, were the most devastating. Some three hundred and ten (310) lives were lost to the virus in those two months alone, representing a quarter of the cumulative deaths from the virus since we recorded our first case in March 2020.
- In the months of October and November, a consistent decline in infection rates occurred, and, mercifully and by the Grace of God, this has continued right into early December.
- As at Sunday, 12th December, some 2,042,778 tests have been conducted, out of which 131,911 positive cases have been recorded. 129,683 persons have recovered, meaning that, presently, the number of active cases, that is the number of people with the virus, stands at 973 persons. In as much as this represents some degree of good news, we have, sadly, had 1,255 persons dying from COVID-19.
- The current data suggests quite a favourable COVID situation prevailing in Ghana, and I say this only to encourage each one of us to continue to be vigilant, and adhere to the enhanced hygiene protocols which have served us so well so far.
- Three regions, i.e., Ashanti, Greater Accra and Volta, have the bulk of infections. Seven (7) regions have single-digit infections, and six (6) regions, that is Ahafo, North East, Oti, Savannah, Upper West and Western North, at the moment, have zero (0) active cases. We must do everything possible, at the very least, to maintain this situation, especially as the festive season approaches.
- We are expecting, in this month of Christmas, a large number of visitors, overseas Ghanaians and foreigners, into the country. With the Immigration Service doing a yeoman’s job by intercepting many foreign nationals trying to enter the country through unapproved routes, Government’s concern has been to limit the importation of the virus through the Kotoka International Airport.
- As things stand, international passengers arriving at Kotoka constitute the highest source of infections in the country, leading us to take drastic measures recently to prevent the importation of the virus from increasing the numbers of infections in the country.
- The Ghana Health Service tells us that an overwhelming majority, that is 75%, of the positive cases recorded at Kotoka have come from passengers who are not vaccinated. Beginning yesterday, Tuesday, 14th December, Government has decided that all visitors coming to Ghana have to be fully vaccinated. Furthermore, all persons seeking to travel outside the country must also be fully vaccinated.
- Fully vaccinated passengers coming to Ghana must, in addition, be in possession of a negative PCR test of not more than seventy-two (72) hours, and also take a mandatory COVID test upon arrival at the airport. Children aged five (5) to twelve (12) will not pay for the test. Any passenger, testing positive at the airport, will be kept in isolation, at a designated isolation facility, and a non-Ghanaian will receive treatment at his or her own cost.
- Communications have been duly sent to all airlines flying into Ghana of the imposition of a three thousand, five hundred dollars (US$3,500) fine for each unvaccinated passenger that is allowed to board a flight into the country.
- Unvaccinated Ghanaians and residents in Ghana, who departed the country before 14th December, and who return by 28th December, will be offered vaccination on arrival at the airport. Further details will be provided by the Ghana Health Service.
- These are stringent measures, I know, but the benefits far outweigh the negatives. As your President, it is my duty to protect lives and livelihoods. The ravages of COVID-19 have been devastating on our economy, and I am determined to return us to our normal way of life as quickly as possible, by helping to defeat the pandemic.
- We should be guided by what transpired last Christmas, where there was a sharp spike in the number of COVID infection cases and deaths in the immediate months of January and February 2021. We should avoid the repetition of such a scenario after this year’s Christmas celebration. We do so by:
a) ensuring that social events are held in open spaces;
b) ensuring that attendees wear masks;
c) ensuring that social distancing is observed;
d) observing enhanced hygiene protocols, such as hand washing and the use of sanitisers; and
e) encouraging attendees, as much as possible, to come vaccinated.
- In as much as our active cases are now relatively low, the wearing of masks, unfortunately, remains low, and compliance with the safety protocols is still problematic.
- Whilst Government does its part to secure the necessary numbers of vaccines to help vaccinate all Ghanaians, we cannot afford to disregard the social distancing, hand washing, mask wearing and enhanced hygiene protocols that have brought us this far. They must continue to be a part and parcel of our daily lives and routines.
- Getting the jab is the best route out of the pandemic, because, according to WHO, it reduces the risk of death, hospitalisation and the spread of the virus. It is for this reason that we have committed ourselves to vaccinating some twenty million Ghanaians, that is the entire adult population, by the end of the year.
- After the start of an impressive vaccination drive in March this year, we were confronted with vaccine supply constraints and disruptions at the global level. Fortunately, in recent months, the supply situation has improved considerably, and we estimate that, by the end of December, we would have secured a total of some 26 million doses.
- Indeed, as at yesterday, Tuesday, 14th December, the Ghana Health Service has taken delivery of 17,736,710 vaccine doses. We are expecting an additional 8,529,090 doses by the end of the year. We have enough vaccines in the system. So, my fellow Ghanaians, I encourage each and every one of you to take advantage of this, and get vaccinated.
- So far, we have been able to administer only 6,420,973 doses out of the 17.7 million we have at our disposal. Let me state, as clearly as I can. The vaccines are safe. They will not harm you. They will protect you and your family. Contrary to the mischief being peddled by some, getting vaccinated will not cause you to vote for the NPP in the 2024 elections, if you do not want to. This is an outrageous claim .Vaccination cannot change your political preferences. That is not its purpose.
- There are significant quantities of vaccines deployed to every corner of the country. We have, thus, declared the month of December as the vaccination month, and we are rolling out an aggressive campaign of vaccination, so that as many Ghanaians as possible have the opportunity to be vaccinated. It is a race against time, but we are determined to accomplish it.
- Two days ago, on Monday, I was in Luxembourg, where I held discussions with the President of the European Investment Bank, Herr Werner Hoyer, on Ghana’s COVID-19 Response Plan. An €82.5 million facility has been approved for Ghana by the Bank for use in the effort to strengthen healthcare delivery, and the provision of specialist medical equipment and medicines across the country. Government has set aside €20 million of this to establish the National Vaccine Institute, which will supervise the domestic production of COVID-19 and other vaccines, led by the private sector and business community.
- As you know, the decision to close our borders, which are a source of livelihoods for many, was necessary because we wanted to limit the importation of the virus into the country. We are monitoring the level of threat of the disease and ongoing vaccinations in our neighbouring countries, and, as soon as we are satisfied that it is safe to do so, the borders will be open. Until then, I believe this is not the right time to reopen our land borders, especially as we are determined to prevent a 4th wave, and, as such, they will remain closed until further notice.
- Government has beefed up its response capability and capacity to deal with the virus should we encounter an upsurge in infections. Over time, we have expanded our healthcare infrastructure, including oxygen supply and reach, particularly with respect to testing and treatment centres, and the training of health professionals across the country, in the care of severe and critically ill persons. However, our best bet in the fight remains adhering to the enhanced hygiene, social distancing and mask wearing protocols, and getting vaccinated.
- Let us choose to live and act responsibly throughout the Christmas festivities, and remember that our actions or inactions will either help to end the pandemic at a much faster rate, or continue to spread the virus in the country. I, on my part, will do everything possible to protect lives and livelihoods, and help return our nation to normalcy. It is possible, and the Government of Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo is determined to realise this goal as quickly as possible.