Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo has announced a two-week partial lockdown of some parts of the country in a bid to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

The country, in less than three weeks, has seen a spike in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases from 2 on March 12 to 137 on March 27.

In his fourth national address to update Ghanaians on enhanced measures being taken against the spread of the coronavirus on March 27, the President said:

“Effective 1am on Monday, 30th March…I have imposed, pursuant to the powers granted the President of the Republic, under the Imposition of Restrictions Act, 2020 (Act 1012), restrictions on movement of persons in the Greater Accra Metropolitan Area (GAMA, which includes Awutu Senya East), and the Greater Kumasi Metropolitan Area and contiguous districts, for a period of two (2) weeks, subject to review.”

In his late-night speech, the President said prevailing circumstances mean that stricter measures have to be put in place in Accra, Tema, Kasoa and Kumasi, which have been identified by the Ghana Health Service as the “hotspots” of the infections.

The government had earlier directed for the closure of Ghana’s borders to human traffic and ordered the mandatory quarantine and testing of 1,030 persons who arrived at the airport at the time of the announcement till the day the borders were closed.

According to the government all measures that have been rolled out are intended to achieve five (5) key objectives – 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 inspire the expansion of our domestic capability and deepen our self-reliance. 

Breakdown of Ghana’s case count

The Ghana Health Service has said seventy-eight (78) of the persons put under quarantine have since tested positive for the virus (making 97% of all confirmed cases).

Of the remaining fifty-nine (59) confirmed cases, fifty-three (53) are receiving treatment and “are doing well, and they will be discharged should their second test results prove negative.” President Akufo-Addo stated.

Fourteen (14) other cases were being managed at home in self-isolation.

Four (4) persons, who had tested positive for the virus, “but were aged and had other serious, underlying medical conditions, have lost their lives,” he disclosed.

Meanwhile two (2) persons have made full recoveries.   

Exemptions from the restrictions

“If you must go out, it must only be to get essential items such as food, medicine, water, undertake banking transactions, or to use public toilet facilities. But, as much as possible, stay at home,” the President said.

There shall be, during the period, no inter-city movement of vehicles and aircraft for private or commercial purposes for the areas of the restrictive measures, except for vehicles and aircrafts providing essential services and those carrying cargo.

Riders of motorbikes are not allowed to carry any additional person, and all intra-city passenger vehicles must reduce the number of passengers in order to observe appropriate social distancing and hygiene protocols.

Individuals and institutions providing the following services shall be exempted from the restrictions:

I.       Members of the Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary;

ii.      Production, distribution and marketing of food, beverages, pharmaceuticals, medicine, paper and plastic packages;

iii.      Environmental and sanitation activities;

iv.      Staff of VALCO;

v.       Road and railway construction workers;

vi.      Mining workers;

vii.     Fisherfolk;

viii.    Members of the security agencies assigned lawful duties;

ix.      Staff of electricity, water, telecommunications, e-commerce and digital service providers; and

x.       Staff of fuel stations.

Procurement of essential materials

Government has taken delivery of additional Personal Protective Equipment -PPEs and making arrangements to procure some more.

Distribution of seventeen thousand (17,000) coveralls, three hundred and fifty thousand (350,000) masks, seventeen thousand (17,000) goggles, two thousand four hundred (2,400) non-contact thermometers, three hundred and fifty thousand (350,000) gloves, twenty-five thousand (25,000) sanitizers, and thirty-thousand (30,000) tests kits are ongoing for healthcare personnel and those undertaking contact tracing and testing.

Government is also recruiting one thousand (1,000) community health workers and an additional thousand (1,000) volunteers to help in this endeavour. One hundred pick-up vehicles and two thousand, five hundred (2,500) tablets have been mobilized for the exercise.    

“It is very important that we protect all healthcare providers with Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs)to make sure they do not contract the virus in the process of protecting our lives.” The President said.

1 billion cedi Coronavirus Alleviation Programme

The Minister for Finance has been directed to prepare, for approval by Parliament, a Coronavirus Alleviation Programme to address the disruption in economic activities, the hardship of Ghanaians, and to rescue and revitalize our industries.

“He will, then, immediately make available a minimum of one billion cedis (GH¢1 billion) to households and businesses, particularly small and medium scale enterprises.” The President added.

Commercial banks are, also responding to the Bank of Ghana’s 1.5% decrease in the Policy Pate and 2% in reserve requirement with a three billion-cedi (GH¢3 billion) facility, to support industry especially in the pharmaceutical, hospitality, service and manufacturing sectors.

“We are providing additional relief, such as extension of the tax filing date from April to June; a two percent (2%) reduction of interest rates by banks, effective 1st April 2020; the granting by the banks of a six (6) month moratorium of principal repayments to entities in the airline and hospitality industries, i.e. hotels, restaurants, car rentals, food vendors, taxis, and uber operators. All other sector credit exposures will be reviewed on a case by case basis; mobile money users can send up to one hundred cedis (GH¢100) for free; and a one hundred percent (100%) to three hundred percent (300%) increase in the daily transaction limits for mobile money transactions,” he revealed.

According to President Nana Akufo-Addo, the Bank of Ghana is predicting a worst-case GDP growth rate scenario of 2.5% for 2020, should the virus continue to linger for the rest of the year.

By: Rabiu Alhassan