On March 22, 2020, the President of the republic, Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo-Addo ordered the closure of the land, sea, and air borders in a bid to curb the spread of COVID 19 in Ghana. This decision was necessary due to the increasing number of confirmed cases from travelers and persons who have come into contact with travelers.
The decision to close the borders had its own repercussions on the country, apart from families being separated by this decision, there was also the economic impact that this decision had on businesses and workers in the aviation sector.
On 1st September 2020, the government of Ghana announced the reopening of the Kotoka International Airport, but the land and sea borders remained closed. Several reasons may account for this development. Some of the reasons includes the inability of the government to control the number of people who cross the various borders daily, it may also be as a result of the lack of testing kits or the high cost of these kits which may be impossible for these travelers to afford.
In announcing the reopening of the airport, the government explained that they have put in place certain measures to help contain the spread of COVID 19 from travelers who enter the country through the airport.
According to the national newspaper, Daily Graphic, the President in his address to the nation stated that measures such as a negative result of every passenger for a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test from an accredited laboratory within 72 hours of departure from the host country.
Passengers were also required to wear face mask and undergo a mandatory COVID -19 test upon disembarking at Kotoka International Airport.
The cost of the test is pegged at 150 dollars and the results of the test is made available to the passenger within 30 minutes. Children of five years and below are exempted from undergoing the test. Passengers who test positive for COVID-19 will be handled by health authorities whiles those who test negative are free to reunite with their family.
The announcement of the reopening of the airport is a welcome news to Ghanaians especially those with families abroad who intend returning back to Ghana and businesses operating in that sector.
One major issue which is of concern now is the cost of the PCR test in Ghana, there have been complaints from a section of Ghanaians about the cost of the testing and some have appealed to the government to reduce the cost, the concern is a legitimate one which I think should be considered. A family of four adults would have to spend a whopping 600 dollars for the test and this may affect the rate at which travelers may want to visit the country.
The travel and tourism industry, hotels which were all affected by the closure cannot wait to start doing brisk business, tourism centers are waiting to welcome foreigners who wish to visit the country and learn about its tourism potentials, the Ghana Tourism Authority and other stakeholders in the industry need to put in place a vigorous campaign to attract visitors into the country after the easing of restrictions.
The government should also ensure that the measures put in place at the airport does not become burdensome on tourist and other travels, these measures would also help to bring back the confidence among the traveling public.
We must also not lose track on our management of COVID 19 cases, a proper management procedure would result in more visitors arriving in the country which also means more revenue for government.
The opening of the airport also means that airlines can now land and take off from Kotoka International Airport after they have had the necessary clearance from the aviation authorities. This means that more airlines would resume their operations on the Accra route resulting in brisk business in the aviation sector.
Countries in the Schengen region and the United States of America are yet to lift the ban on Ghanaians who intend traveling to these countries for business, tourism and family visits, the decision by these countries to allow Ghanaians to visit would largely depend on how well the Government handles our COVID 19 cases, recent figures from the Ghana Health Services shows an improvement on the management of reported cases. These positive strides may lead to other countries revising their conditions and opening their borders for prospective travelers from Ghana.
The writer is a former Consular officer at the Netherlands Embassy in Ghana and currently the CEO of Musjima Ventures. His interest is in travel matters and migration issues.