Ghana has committed a whopping $100 million to improve its preparedness and response to a possible outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
President of the West African nation, Nana Akufo Addo, made the announcement to his citizens on Wednesday night, March 11, 2020.
Mr. Akufo-Addo’s announcement comes as coronavirus ‘surrounds’ Ghana due to confirmed cases in neighboring Togo, Burkina Faso, and Côte d’Ivoire.
In his 8:00pm address to the nation, Mr. Akufo-Addo noted that he has directed Ghana’s Minister for Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta, to make available the cedi equivalent of $100 million to enhance Ghana’s Coronavirus preparedness and response plan.
He observed that the amount “is to fund expansion of infrastructure, purchase of materials and equipment, and public education.”
His address was delivered few hours after the declaration by the World Health Organisation (WHO) of the Coronavirus disease as “a pandemic.”
Ghana’s entry points, such as her airports and land borders, he noted, continue to show satisfactory preparedness to screen all entrants into the country, with the Ministry of Health designating a quarantine facility 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,” according to him.
He added that “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.”
He indicated that he has instructed further enhancements of the protocols for in-bound traffic from already affected countries, and urged Ghanaians “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, is 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 infections.
Reiterating his call of 6th March, and as advised by the Ministry of Health, the President appealed to Ghanaians to revisit the custom of shaking hands, and stop doing so completely, and added that all Ghanaians 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 donts of the disease. 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,” he said.
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 place mechanisms to caution and assist patrons on basic preventive measures.
Whilst urging Ghanaians to continue to observe the basic preventive behaviour, i.e. washing our hands regularly, using alcohol-based sanitisers, stopping 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 has begun to engage with the domestic pharmaceutical industry to assist in this 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 World Health Organisation (WHO), the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and friends of Ghana for the assistance they have, so far, provided, and for the pledges made in support of Ghana’s 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,” he added.
BY Melvin Tarlue