Fellow Ghanaians, good evening. Today is the fifteenth (15th) time, since the virus came to our country some five (5) months ago, that I have come to provide you with the status of our coordinated efforts to defeat COVID-19.
I must thank you, again, for welcoming me into your homes, and I must repeat how proud I am to be your President in these difficult times. I appeal to all of us to continue in our individual and collective efforts to help contain the spread of the virus in our country.
We have been through several phases of the fight against the pandemic, we have put in place restrictions to our everyday lives, indeed, of which some still remain, and we have gradually moved to restoring normalcy in some aspects of our lives.
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Over the last few weeks, the cap on the number of persons going to church and mosque has been lifted, albeit with strict social distancing; our final year students in university, senior and junior high schools have returned to school to write their final examinations; and the Electoral Commission has just completed the successful compilation of a voters’ register ahead of the conduct of the 2020 general elections in December.
On behalf of the people of Ghana, I congratulate warmly the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission, Mrs. Jean Mensa, her two Deputies, Dr. Eric Asare Bossman and Mr. Samuel Tettey, and the entire Commission for the efficient, safe, transparent nature of the registration exercise, where, for the first time in our nation’s history, Ghanaians were provided with daily updates of the numbers of eligible voters registered, together with a specific age, gender, regional breakdowns, and breakdowns of identity documents.
All eligible voters were given the unfettered opportunity to register, a process that was fully embraced by the mass of the citizenry. Of course, there were genuine and understandable concerns about conducting such a complex exercise, involving millions of citizens, at this time. But, at the end of the day, Ghanaians did their civic duty, by going out to register, having found that the process was overwhelmingly orderly, peaceful, and safe.
However, there were those who expressed various degrees of hysteria and negativity towards the exercise, with some, who swore heaven and earth to resist the compilation of the register at the peril of their lives, ending up registering. There were also those who offered delicate, personal sacrifices in the event of the register, again, ending up registering. And, there were those who claimed that, in the midst of a pandemic, the registration exercise should not be conducted, with some warning of an “explosion” in our case count and very high numbers of deaths, should the exercise go ahead.
By the grace of God, the work of the Electoral Commission, and the effective measures put in place by the Government, these prophecies of doom did not materialize. There were, nonetheless, deeply regrettable, isolated incidents of violence, which I condemn unreservedly, and which I expect the Police to deal with without fear or favour, but the exercise was generally peaceful.
The Ghanaian people have, by the conduct of this exercise, demonstrated our commitment, once again, to consolidate our status as a beacon of democracy on the continent and in the world.
The professional Jeremiahs and naysayers, who seek, cynically, to make a profitable industry out of spreading falsehoods, fear and panic, stoking divisive, ethnic sentiments, underestimate the resolve and the determination of Ghanaians to build a united, democratic, peaceful, prosperous, and happy Ghana. We will continue to work hard to prove them wrong.
Fellow Ghanaians, when I delivered Update No. 14, some three (3) weeks ago, I indicated that a closer look at the data points to the fact that we are steadily on the path towards limiting and containing the virus, and, ultimately, defeating it, and requested all of us to pay particular attention to the number of active cases.
As at 24th July, the number of active cases, i.e. persons with the virus, stood at three thousand, three hundred and seven (3,307). As at Saturday, 15th August, three weeks later, the number of active cases stands at one thousand, eight hundred and forty-seven (1,847). This is a clear indication that Government policies are working.
Currently, there are no recorded COVID-19 cases in the North East, Savannah, Upper East, and Upper West Regions, and I charge their residents to do everything possible to maintain that situation. Greater Accra, Ashanti, Central, Eastern, and Western continue to be the Regions with the highest number of active cases. Thus far, a total of forty thousand, five hundred and sixty-seven (40,567) persons have recovered from the virus.
This means our recovery rate has improved from eighty-nine-point five percent (89.5%) to ninety-five point one percent (95.1%) in three weeks. Our death rate continues, mercifully, to be low at zero-point five percent (0.5%). Happily, there are no backlogs of tests at any of our testing centres, meaning that situational reports are up to date. Indeed, test results that used to take weeks are now available within forty-eight (48) hours. We have, so far, conducted four hundred and twenty-seven thousand, one hundred and twenty-one (427,121) tests.
These statistics undermine, as unfounded, the claim that Ghana has lost the battle to defeat COVID-19. There can only be one simple reason for this baseless assertion, and that is political expediency. But, as I have said before, do not begrudge those who make such statements, they need to make them continue to try to stay relevant.
Our health workers will forever be in our debt, for the dedication they have put in to ensure these impressive statistics. We can help them even further by continuing to adhere to the social distancing and hygiene protocols we have instituted to stem the tide of infections.
I have been encouraged by the results of a recent survey conducted by the Ghana Health Service into the use of face masks at selected locations in Accra in the month of August. It revealed that the overall intention to use face masks at the sites surveyed was very high, with eighty-two percent (82%) of persons surveyed possessing a mask.
I believe we can do even more, and reach one hundred percent (100%). However, the same survey demonstrated that only forty-four-point three percent (44.3%) of those who have the mask use them correctly. I urge each and every one of us to wear our masks, and do so correctly anytime we leave our homes. It is the new normal requirement of our daily existence until the virus disappears.
Our phased approach towards returning our lives to normal, through the strategic, controlled, progressive, and safe easing of restrictions, will, thus, continue. Most final year university students have already completed their examinations, and, by 18th September, SHS 3 and JHS 3 students would have finished their respective final examinations of WASSCE and BECE.
As a result of reports I have recently received that some final year JHS students were going hungry, in complying with COVID-19 protocols, I have just instructed the Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection to begin preparations to ensure that, as from 24th August up to 18th September, all five hundred and eighty-four thousand (584,000) final year JHS students, and one hundred and forty-six thousand (146,000) staff, both in public and private schools, be given one hot meal a day. This is to ensure full observance of the COVID-19 safety protocols.
Through online learning portals, almost all continuing students in our Universities have completed their studies for the academic year. The exceptions are the University of Cape Coast, the University of Health and Allied Sciences, Technical Universities, and some other Colleges.
After extensive stakeholder consultations, the decision has been taken for continuing students in these tertiary institutions to return to school, on 24th August, to finish their academic year.
Just as was done for final year students who returned to school, Government, through the Ministry of Education and the Ghana Education Service, will ensure that all these tertiary institutions are disinfected. Universities will be equipped with the necessary personal protective equipment, and those with their own hospitals and clinics will have isolation centres to deal with any positive cases.
All other institutions, without their own clinics and hospitals, will be mapped to health facilities. There will be no mass gatherings and no sporting activities. Religious activities, under the new protocols, will be permitted. Social distancing and the wearing of face masks must become the norm on campus.
The Ministry of Education continues to engage the Ghana Education Service (GES) and all relevant stakeholders to conclude discussions on the modalities surrounding the reopening of our pre-tertiary schools. I will communicate, in due course, the decisions that will be reached from these consultations.
You can be rest assured that I will always take into prime consideration the safety and wellbeing of our children, teachers and non-teaching staff in the decisions that will be taken because I am determined to ensure that the education of our children is not unduly disturbed by this pandemic
I know many still ask when our borders, especially our international airport, Kotoka International Airport, will be open. Under my instructions, the Ministry of Aviation, the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority and the Ghana Airports Co. Ltd.,have been working, with the Ministry of Health and its agencies, to ascertain our readiness to reopen our airport.
I want to ensure that we are in a position to test every single passenger that arrives in the country to avoid the spread of the virus. The outcome of that exercise will show us the way, and determine when we can reopen our border by air. I am hoping that, by God’s grace, we will be ready to do so by 1st September.
Until further notice, our borders, by air, land, and sea, remain closed to human traffic. For Ghana residents stranded abroad, a special dispensation will continue to be given for their evacuation back to Ghana, where they will be subjected to the mandatory quarantine and safety protocols. Beaches, pubs, cinemas, and nightclubs are still to remain closed until further notice.
The limit on the numbers of persons who can attend conferences, workshops and award events, has now been lifted, subject to the maintenance of social distancing amongst participants, fresh air ventilation of the premises, and a two-hour limit for each session.
I know that the pandemic has adversely affected many lives and livelihoods. It is for this reason that Government has implemented several measures such as free water and electricity, and funding to support small businesses, and tax reliefs, amongst others, to cushion the effect of the pandemic. We are not providing freebies, we are providing critical help to households, families, and businesses, in the midst of this pandemic, because we care. It is my conviction that, in times of crises, it is the duty of a responsible and sensitive Government to protect the population, and provide relief.
Fellow Ghanaians, let us remember at all times that this phased opening up of our country continues to put an obligation and responsibility on each one of us to remain vigilant, and respect the enhanced hygiene, mask-wearing and social distancing protocols that have become part and parcel of our daily routine. They are proving to be effective, so let us employ them wholeheartedly. That is the way we can restore, as quickly as possible, the blessings of normalcy for which we all yearn.
There is no room for complacency, we must be very much on our guard because some countries have experienced spikes after recording major achievements in containing the spread of the virus. We should not go down that road. Social distancing, enhanced hygiene, and the wearing of masks are obligatory for each one of us.
Fellow Ghanaians, the remarkable nature of us, the Ghanaian people, the first colonised people in sub-Saharan Africa to gain their freedom and independence from foreign rule, is manifesting itself again.
In the midst of the pandemic, we have been able to compile a voters’ register, arguably, the most credible voter register in our history; our democratic institutions continue to function effectively; there continues to be a vigorous public debate on issues of public policy; respect for the rule of law continues to be central to our governance; our economy, despite the severe shocks of the pandemic, is proving to be resilient, and is poised for rapid recovery; our agriculture is performing so that, despite the disruptions of the pandemic, food is still abundant in our markets; and the virus itself is being fought systematically.
Indeed, a stronger, healthier Ghana is being built before our very eyes, and the great majority of Ghanaians can see it. Let us continue down this path, so that the dreams of freedom and prosperity that inspired the great patriots, who founded our nation, can find expression in our generation.
We can do it, so let us continue to work hard towards attaining our goal.
This too shall pass! For the Battle is the Lord’s!!
May God bless us all, and our homeland Ghana, and make her great and strong.
I thank you for your attention.