Fellow Ghanaians, good evening.
This is the seventeenth (17th) time that you are kindly opening the doors to your homes to me to enable me to brief you about the issue of COVID-19, the steps being taken by the Government to eliminate it, and the measures being implemented to ease progressively and safely the restrictions put in place to defeat the virus.
We, in Ghana, have certainly come a long way, and have made significant progress in combating the disease. The angst, fear, and panic exhibited by many, especially when the first two (2) cases were recorded on our shores, have been replaced, in recent weeks, by a growing sense of optimism and renewed hope that we are on our way to winning the battle against the pandemic. The improvement in the situation is all thanks to the effectiveness of the measures put in place by the Government, the co-operation and support of you, the Ghanaian people, and, most certainly, by the grace of Almighty God.
Nevertheless, I appeal to each and every one of you to continue to tread on the path constructed by Government, and follow religiously all the social distancing, mask-wearing, and enhanced hygiene protocols. They are and will remain our weapons in this struggle against the virus. In the same manner, we have to remember to continue improving our fitness by exercising and eating well, patronising our healthy Ghanaian foods, which will boost our immunity to disease, and help us in the fight against the pandemic.
When I delivered Update No. 16, exactly three weeks ago, the number of recorded active cases, that is persons with the virus, stood at one thousand, eight hundred and forty-seven (1,847). This number, as at Friday, 18th September 2020, has reduced considerably to five hundred and seven (507) persons. There are, currently, some regions in the country without active cases. Greater Accra, Eastern, Ashanti, and Central Regions account for some eighty percent (80%) of the active cases. As at Friday, 18th September 2020, the total number of tests conducted is four hundred and seventy thousand, seven hundred and thirty (470,730). So far, a total of forty-five thousand, two hundred and fifty-eight (45,258) persons have recovered, and two hundred and ninety-seven (297) persons, a great majority of them with underlying illnesses, such as hypertension, diabetes, chronic liver disease, and asthma, have sadly died.
In the face of these encouraging statistics, I know there are many who are wondering why I have not announced a complete return to normalcy in all aspects of national life because they believe the figures suggest we have turned the tide in the fight against the virus. Yes, our death rate continues to be low, and our hospitals have, mercifully, not been overwhelmed, as there are, presently, only twenty (20) severe and critical cases. Indeed, there are a lot of empty beds in our treatment centres, and the isolation centres have virtually no patients under care. But truth be told: we cannot afford, at this critical moment, to throw caution to the wind, and destroy the incredible amount of work undertaken by Government, health officials, heroic frontline health workers, and members of the security agencies, in bringing us this far. Now more than ever, we must be even more disciplined in our adherence to the personal hygiene, mask-wearing, and social distancing measures that have become part of our daily routines. That is the way to eliminate the virus altogether. The experience in other parts of the world shows us that the virus can return with a vengeance, once you let your guard down.
Fellow Ghanaians, in my last address, I announced the reopening of our international airport, Kotoka International Airport, signaling our gradual reintegration with the rest of the world. Sixteen (16) out of the twenty-three (23) airlines that operated in Kotoka prior to its closure have, again, commenced flights to and from Accra.
As of yesterday, Saturday, 19th September, a total of ten thousand and sixty-one (10,061) passengers have been tested at Kotoka. In spite of the requirement that all passengers must be in possession of a negative PCR test result upon their arrival in Ghana, a test which should have been conducted not more than seventy-two (72) hours before the scheduled departure from the country of origin, a total of twenty-six (26) positive cases have been recorded from the tests at KIA. Let us pause for a moment and imagine what would have happened if these twenty-six (26) positives had not been detected, and had been allowed to mingle with the population. Even though the cost of one hundred and fifty United States dollars (US$150) per passenger, for the mandatory airport COVID test, has been criticised in certain quarters, the value of the test in its speed, accuracy, and savings for passengers, who no longer have to bear the cost of the 14-day mandatory quarantine in hotels, has been clearly established.
It is worth noting that a lot of people, who have experienced at first hand the service being offered at our international airport, have praised the country for the innovation and farsightedness on display at our airport. Let me assure you again that, as President of the Republic, I will do everything in my power to protect you and stop the importation of the virus into our country, or limit and contain its spread. This is my solemn commitment to you.
Fellow Ghanaians, on Friday, 18th September, five hundred and thirty-one thousand, six hundred and seventy-four (531,674) JHS 3 students completed the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE). SHS 3 students also, on 5th September, wrote the last paper of the West Africa Senior Secondary Certificate Examinations (WASSCE). I am particularly excited at this development because, despite the fears and genuine anxiety expressed by some, and the criticisms proffered by some in the political space, these students have gone to school, studied, sat, and completed their examinations unscathed. Their forward march in life has not been interrupted. And, by the grace of God, the predictions made by some of the widespread infections and even deaths did not materialise. I pledged I will be the last person to put the lives of students at risk, and I express my deep appreciation to all parents and guardians for the trust reposed in me and Government. I pray for the success of the students in their exams.
As has already been announced, relevant arrangements and logistical deployments are being made for the return to school of second-year Junior and Senior High School students. Continuing students in the University of Cape Coast, the University of Health and Allied Sciences, Technical Universities, and some other Colleges have returned to school, and I have been reliably informed that adherence to protocols is high. Long may it continue.
On Monday, 14th September, I extended, by Executive Instrument, the mandatory wearing of face masks by another three (3) months. So, until 14th December 2020, the wearing of masks remains mandatory, and the law enforcement agencies will be required to ensure this directive is respected by all. It has served us well in the fight against COVID-19, so 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.
Towards the progressive easing of restrictions, Government has taken the decision to allow the resumption of training in all contact sports, taking into consideration the imminent participation of our national teams in international competitions. Indeed, some national teams have already been given the dispensation to begin training, ahead of their international engagements. All sports people, who are camped, are to be tested regularly.
Fellow Ghanaians, with respect to football, after due consultations with the Ghana Football Association, it has been decided that the Ghana Premier League and the Division One Football League will restart on Friday, 30th October, with a full regime of testing of the players, technical and management staff. No spectators will be allowed at the training centres, and, when actual competition resumes, seating at all stadia will be limited to twenty-five percent (25%) capacity to ensure social distancing. Wearing of masks by spectators at stadia will be mandatory. The restart of all other sporting competitions will be determined on a case-by-case basis, pending consultations between the Ministry of Youth and Sports and the respective sport associations.
Private burials, still, with a maximum of one hundred (100) persons, can continue to be performed. Our borders, by land and sea, will remain closed to human traffic until further notice. Beaches, pubs, cinemas, and nightclubs remain closed until further notice. All other institutions that have been cleared to function are to continue to do so in strict adherence to the COVID-19 protocols.
Fellow Ghanaians, as we work to rid the virus from our shores, let us continue to remember, at all times, that this virus is no respecter of persons, and has wreaked its havoc on every country on the planet. There are countries that are imposing lockdowns all over again, others are imposing curfews, all in a bid to curb the onset of fresh infections and a second wave. Let us continue to look out for one another, and remain each other’s keeper. United, and with one goal in mind, we will emerge victorious in the fight against COVID-19. Zero active cases must be the ultimate aim.
My rallying cry to you all remains: 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, and have a good night.