The Ghanaian leader Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has announced the roadmap for easing safely the restrictions imposed to contain the spread the Coronavirus in the West African country and commended Ghanaians for continuing to adhere to the social distancing and enhanced hygiene protocols, “which have, as a result, altered our way of life to accommodate these changes; and we continue to make sacrifices to speed up the process of bringing our lives safely back to a state of normalcy”.In his 10th nationwide broadcast on Sunday, May 31, on Coronavirus pandemic, Akufo-Addo declared: “We have demonstrated not only to ourselves, but also to the entire world, that we are capable of charting our own path towards containing the spread of this disease. We must all be proud that we have become a reference point for others on how to combat it.
“In all of this, I say a special ayekoo (well done) to our heroic healthcare workers, our efficient teams of contact tracers and testers, our farsighted scientists, our professional security personnel, and responsible members of our media, who have done a yeoman’s job over the last 11weeks in the fight. Your efforts are truly appreciated, and the Ghanaian people will always be in your debt.”
He recalled that when the first two cases were confirmed on 12th March, 2020, the nation took timely measures to attack the virus. “We decided that we would limit and stop the importation of the virus; contain its spread; provide adequate care for the sick; limit the impact of the virus on social and economic life, and use the opportunity afforded by the emergency to expand our domestic capability and deepen our self-reliance,” he said.
The President, who has been endorsed by the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the New Patriotic Party, as the sole Presidential Candidate for the 2020 General Election, also said that far-reaching reliefs were announced to ease the economic and social burden on households and businesses that some the tough measures taken to stop the spread of the virus and these included subsidies on utilities for all, tax reliefs and financial packages for businesses, and incentives for our frontline health workers.
He disclosed that as at Sunday, 31st May, “we have conducted two hundred and eighteen thousand, four hundred and twenty-five (218,425) tests; the number of positive cases stands at eight thousand and seventy (8,070); two thousand, nine hundred and forty-seven (2,947) persons have recovered; thirty-six (36) have sadly died; thirteen (13) persons are severely ill, with three (3) critically-ill for which (1) is on a ventilator; and five thousand and eighty-seven are responding to treatment at home, isolation centres and hospitals”.
“Our hospitalisation and death rates have been, persistently, very low, some of the lowest in Africa and in the world. The Ghanaian people are not dying of the virus in the hundreds and thousands that were earlier anticipated, and that are being seen on a daily basis in some other countries,” he said.
According to him, Ghana is witnessing a much milder manifestation of the virus in the country, than was initially feared.
“Our ability to trace, test, and treat persons with the virus has improved considerably; we now have a large army of efficient contact tracers; we have expanded the number of testing facilities from two to 10 across the country; and we have increased appreciably the number of quarantine, isolation and treatment centres.
“We have lessened our dependence on foreign imports, and scaled up significantly domestic production and distribution of personal protective equipment to our healthcare workers,” he said, adding that “everything that has been achieved, so far, would not have been possible without the strong co-operation of you, the Ghanaian people”.
He noted the devastating impact the measures employed to defeat the virus has had on our social, religious, cultural and economic lives, as well as on jobs, and the education of children, and yet, “I know, however, that we cannot live with these restrictions forever, and that it is imperative we find a safe way to return our lives to normality, as other nations across the globe are trying to do”.
The President explained that after due consultations on easing the restrictions, a consensus emerged and that “we should embark on a strategic, controlled, progressive, safe easing of restrictions to get our lives and economy back to normal”.
“So, fellow Ghanaians, with effect from Friday, 5th June, we will begin Stage One of the process of easing restrictions.
“An abridged format for religious services can commence. Twenty-five percent (25%) attendance, with a maximum number of one hundred (100) congregants, can worship at a time in church or at the mosque, with a mandatory one metre rule of social distancing between congregants.
“In addition to the mandatory wearing of masks for all persons at all times in churches and mosques, a register of names and contact details of all worshippers and hand washing facilities and sanitisers must be provided, with a maximum duration of one (1) hour for each service,” he said.
He also announced that From Monday, 15th June, 2020, the decision has been taken, after engagement with the Teacher Unions, whose co-operation I salute, to reopen schools and universities to allow for final year junior high, senior high and university students to resume classes ahead of the conduct of their respective exit examinations. Indeed, final year university students are to report to their universities on 15th June.
Private burials, now with a maximum of one hundred (100) persons, can continue to be performed. Restaurants, providing seated services, can operate under appropriate social distancing arrangements and hygiene protocols. Individual, non-contact sports can go ahead. Conferences, workshops, weddings, and political activities, except rallies, can now take place, but with limited numbers not exceeding one hundred (100) persons present, with the appropriate social distancing and hygiene protocols. Market places, work places, public transport, and constitutional and statutory bodies such as the Electoral Commission, the National Commission for Civic Education and the National Identification Authority, whose activities were exempted from the outset from these restrictions, must conduct their activities in accordance with social distancing and the necessary hygiene and safety protocols.
He maintained that the suspension of sporting events, nightclubs, cinemas, drinking spots, bars, beaches, festivals, funerals, political rallies, and large religious gatherings such as crusades, pilgrimages and conventions is still in force, while “our border, by air, land and sea, remains closed until further notice for human traffic”. The president, however, noted that “given that there are Ghana residents stranded abroad, special dispensation is going to be given for their evacuation back to Ghana, where they will be subjected to the mandatory quarantine and safety protocols”.
Akufo-Addo assured Ghanaians that with greater freedom comes greater responsibility and that “the introduction of this phased opening up of our country means that each and every one of us must continue to remain vigilant, and respect the enhanced hygiene and social distancing protocols that have become part and parcel of our daily routine over the last three (3) months”.
“We cannot afford to let our guard down, and ruin the successes we have chalked over this period,” he said.