President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo on Wednesday said he has directed the Minister of Finance to make available the cedi equivalent of 100 million dollars to enhance Ghana’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) preparedness and response plan.
The amount is to fund expansion of infrastructure, purchase of materials and equipment, and public education.
Delivering an address to the nation on Wednesday, March 11, the President said with the declaration by the World Health Organisation (WHO) of the COVID-19 as “a pandemic,” it was important the nation stepped up her preparedness.
This is to ensure that beyond the initial measures that have been put in place, a ‘whole of Ghana’ approach is adopted in preparation for a possible hit within the country’s borders.
President Akufo-Addo made reference to confirmed cases of infection in neighbouring countries including Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire and Togo whilst countries like Italy, where there is a large population of Ghanaians, have escalated their response to the outbreak.
Ghana’s entry points such as her airports and land borders continue to show satisfactory preparedness to screen all entrants into the country, with the Ministry of Health designating quarantine facilities that can hold infected persons, whilst regional hospitals are preparing isolation centres for holding suspected cases.
“Our country’s two main research institutions, the Noguchi Memorial Institute and the Kumasi Centre for Collaborative Research, which have the capacity to investigate and confirm or otherwise suspected cases of Coronavirus infections, have been very supportive in this regard. So far, they have found that the fifty-seven (57) suspected cases, as of today, Wednesday, 11th March, have proved negative,” he said.
“I have, as at yesterday, ordered a suspension of all international travels by public officials. Except for critical assignments, which will have to be authorised by the Chief of Staff at the Office of the President, all public officials are to remain within the jurisdiction, until further notice. Video conferencing facilities and other technological tools are to be utilised, whenever possible, for international engagements.”
Additionally, the President said he had instructed further enhancements of the protocols for in-bound traffic from already affected countries, and urged Ghanaians to “as much as possible, desist from all foreign travels, except the most critical ones, until there is a grip on the virus.”
The Ministry of Information, President Akufo-Addo said, was leading a nationwide public education campaign on preventive measures that all Ghanaians must observe to ensure the control of the spread of infections, should the country record any.
Reiterating his call on Sixth March based on advice by the Ministry of Health, the President appealed to Ghanaians to revisit the custom of shaking hands, and stop doing so completely, and that people must cover their mouths when coughing or sneezing.
“This fight, fellow Ghanaians, cannot be that of Government alone. It is for all of us. I urge the media to join this cause fully, and help disseminate effectively information on the dos and don’ts of the disease,” he said.
The information to be put out, however, must be that approved by health authorities, and not just from any piece of literature found on the internet, as false materials are already being spread from other jurisdictions.”
President Akufo-Addo appealed to civil society organisations, schools, universities, faith-based organisations and places, which harbour large gatherings such as classrooms, lecture halls, meetings, parties and funerals, to put in mechanisms to caution and assist patrons on basic preventive measures.
Whilst urging Ghanaians to continue to observe the basic preventive behaviour, that is washing hands regularly, using alcohol-based sanitisers, stop shaking hands, and avoiding unnecessary close body contact, he stated that “Government is analysing the potential impact to our economy of the virus, and will trigger the relevant response to minimise it.”
Touching on the production of the logistics required to prevent and combat the virus, the President revealed that Government had begun to engage with the domestic pharmaceutical industry to assist in that regard.
“Indeed, we must take advantage of this crisis to strengthen our domestic productive capacity, so we can advance our self-reliance, and reduce our dependence on foreign imports. Necessity, they say, is the mother of invention,” he added.
President Akufo-Addo extended his appreciation to the WHO, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and friends of Ghana for the assistance they have, so far, provided the country and for the pledges made in support of the fight against the virus.
“We shall continue to work with them to defeat the spread of the virus. I am confident that, together, with all hands on deck, we will be successful in weathering this storm.”