COVID-19 Pandemic: Akufo-Addo Puts His Best Foot Forward

Feature Article COVID-19 Pandemic: Akufo-Addo Puts His Best Foot Forward
APR 6, 2020 LISTEN

A time will come our fledgling democracy will grow strong teeth and wear mosaic beard just like the giant democracies we so envy, if we learn to think Ghana first, place solidarity and unity at the forefront of our body Politik, push aside rhetoric, pandering and partisanship. Or maybe do a little bit of that and give our all to support mother Ghana.

Also, I think, it's important to remind ourselves that not all leaders have got it. By that, I mean not all leaders are able to make good judgments, especially when they're confronted with a more daunting task or complex situations. In fact, many instances abound as more often than not some of them turn to make very bad decisions which adversely affect the nation and its citizenry.

I've observed, in the midst of the novel Coronavirus pandemic, that Ghana's President Akufo-Addo has been putting in place good measures that do not only seek to mitigate the spread of the disease but also unite the people, and their well-being.

Mr. Akufo-Addo has been tackling the COVID-19 pandemic with purpose and gusto, in spite of the complexity associated with the disease and its newness. It's apt to say he's put his best foot forward.

Have you forgotten his refusal to bring back home Ghanaian students that were deemed stranded in China? That was an unpopular decision, yet it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Again, his introduction of mandatory quarantine and testing of over one thousand travellers that entered the nation's International Airport KIA met with stiff opposition.

Yet, the President continues to make great inroads.

On Friday 3, April 2020, leaders of six major political parties in the country visited the Jubilee House---the seat of government in Accra at the behest of the President to engage in serious matters concerning COVID-19 pandemic. They included NDC 's Samuel Ofosu Ampofo, National Chairman, Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings, NDP presidential candidate, PNC' s Dr Edward Nasigire Mahama, Mr Ivor Greenstreet, CPP's 2016 presidential candidate, Bridgette Dzobgenuku, vice presidential candidate for the PPP and the National Chairman of the NPP Freddie Blay.

It was a revelatory moment, when they honoured the President's invitation, albeit at a short notice.

The April 3rd meeting followed a similar meeting the president had with a group of religious leaders barely ten days ago. President Akufo-Addo said he couldn't be happier and more grateful to the leaders for the honour and promptness they showed.

Need I remind you of the challenges we're facing today? Literally, we've had our hearts in our mouths and drowned by anxiety and uncertainty. But we've also proved the sceptics wrong. We've demonstrated that we are capable If we put our mind and heart to it.

Yes, if we sacrifice and show dedication, with modicum effort we can join the pantheon of giant achievers.

President's address
Yesterday, April 5, 2020, President Akufo-Addo delivered another powerful message to the nation.

"Nine (9) days ago, I came to your homes and requested you to make great sacrifices to save lives and to protect our motherland. I announced the imposition of strict restrictions to movement and asked that residents of the Greater Accra Metropolitan Area and Kasoa and the Greater Kumasi Metropolitan Area and its contiguous districts to stay at home for two (2) weeks, in order to give us the opportunity to stave off this pandemic," the President said when he addressed the nation on Sunday evening.

"As a result, residents of these two areas had to make significant adjustments to our way of life, with the ultimate goal being to protect permanently our continued existence on this land."

According to him, they heeded the call, except that there are a few who continue to find ways to be recalcitrant, but the greater majority have complied, and have done so with calm and dignity..

"Fellow Ghanaians, as I have said before, all that Government is doing is intended to achieve five (5) key objectives – limit and stop the importation of the virus; contain its spread; provide adequate care for the sick; limit the impact of the virus on social and economic life, and inspire the expansion of our domestic capability and deepen our self-reliance,' Mr Akufo-Addo noted.

Update on COVID-19
As at Sunday, the 5th of April, 2020, the President said 'our current situation is such that we have recorded a total of two hundred and fourteen (214) cases'.

The Greater Accra Region has one hundred and eighty-nine (189) cases, followed by the Ashanti Region with twelve (12), Northern Region ten (10), Upper West Region one (1), Eastern Region one (1), and Upper East Region one (1). The ten from the Northern Region are the West African nationals who entered our country illegally, after the closure of the borders. In total, three (3) persons have fully recovered from the disease, forty-nine (49) persons have been discharged from treatment facilities, and are being managed from home, and the remaining one hundred and fifty-five (155) are responding to treatment.

Two (2) persons are moderately ill, and five (5) persons, as I said before, have lost their lives.

Of the one thousand and thirty (1,030) travellers, who were mandatorily quarantined and tested on their arrival in Ghana on the 21st and 22nd of March, seventy-nine (79) were initially found to be positive, and appropriate arrangements were made for their isolation and treatment. Subsequently, after twelve (12) further days of quarantine, twenty-six (26) other persons were found to be positive as a result of their second test, bringing the total number of those found to be positive to one hundred and five (105), all of whom have been isolated for treatment. Of the remaining nine hundred and twenty-five (925) persons, who have undergone two tests and found to be negative, eight hundred and four (804) have been released from quarantine to join their families.

The remaining one hundred and twenty-one (121) are, as I speak, in the process of being released. I want to thank all of them and their families and loved ones for their understanding and co-operation with the stringent procedures that Government was forced to deploy in the public interest.

Efforts also at contact tracing have been ramped up over the course of the past week. Indeed, for every confirmed case of COVID-19, all the contacts have been listed, monitored and tracked, he revealed. Additionally, in the home or place of work of a confirmed case, all persons, be they at home or at work, have been tested, whether they had symptoms or not. Within the locality or neighbourhood of a confirmed case, the opportunity is also being provided for persons to undergo voluntary testing to ascertain the extent of community spread.

Dire days ahead
The President gave the nation a heads up, asking them to anticipate tough times as we press pass our stress and pain in the coming days.

"We are, thus, about to enter a critical phase of our fight in the coming week, as the Ghana Health Service is due to receive the results of some fifteen thousand, three hundred and eighty-four (15,384) out of nineteen thousand, two hundred and seventy-six (19,276) persons who have been reached through contact tracing. It is the results of these tests that will determine our future course of action.

Government's policy and measures will continue to be driven by the science in this matter. The Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) are now partnering government in the struggle. I met with their representatives on Friday and arranged with them a mechanism for the realisation of this partnership.

The nation and I appreciate their involvement," he said.

So, in the course of the coming week, a determination will be made as to whether or not to extend the duration of the two-week restriction on movement, and the implementation or otherwise of any more enhanced measures to deal with the virus. I have, however, by Executive Instrument, extended the closure of our borders for two (2) more weeks, until further notice. The data tells us that the overwhelming majority of confirmed cases came from travellers or from people who have come into contact with travellers."

Political parties
According to the president, he was encouraged by the appreciation of Government's handling of the pandemic, and the offer of support by the leadership of the major political parties in the country, whom he met on Friday, adding he applauds Parliament's decision to call off its planned recess and be on standby to aid in the fight against the virus. I thank the staff of the University of Ghana's Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research, the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology's Kumasi Centre for Collaborative Research, and the National Public Health Reference Laboratory of the Korle-bu Teaching Hospital for the solid work they are doing for Mother Ghana.

COVID-19 Trust Fund
I am very grateful to the individuals and institutions, who have responded to my appeal for donations to be made into the COVID-19 National Trust Fund, which has been established to complement Government's fight against the virus, and to assist in the welfare of the needy and the vulnerable. A total amount of some eight million, seven hundred and fifty thousand cedis (GH¢8.75 million), which includes six hundred thousand United States dollars (US$600,000), has been received so far for this purpose. I am happy that so many appointees of my government have also followed my example by donating their salaries to the Fund.

Stimulus Fund
Mr Akufo-Addo revealed that he has asked Minister of Finance to send to Parliament the Coronavirus Alleviation Programme (CAP), whose objective is to protect households and livelihoods, support micro, small, and medium-sized businesses, minimise job losses, and source additional funding for promotion of industries to shore up and expand industrial output for domestic consumption and exports.

"Through this Programme, the Ministries of Gender, Children and Social Protection and Local Government and Rural Development, and the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO), working with MMDCEs and the faith-based organisations, have begun to provide food for up to four hundred thousand (400,000) individuals and homes in the affected areas of the restrictions. This began in Accra today and will begin in Kumasi tomorrow. It will come in the form of dry food packages and hot meals and will be delivered to vulnerable communities in Accra, Tema, Kumasi and Kasoa.

Again, the Ghana Water Company Ltd and the Electricity Company of Ghana have been directed to ensure the stable supply of water and electricity during this period. In addition, there will be no disconnection of supply. Furthermore, Government will absorb the water bills for all Ghanaians for the next three months, i.e. April, May and June. All water tankers, publicly and privately-owned, are also going to be mobilised to ensure the supply of water to all vulnerable communities.

Government, in collaboration with the National Board for Small Scale Industries (NBSSI), Business & Trade Associations and selected Commercial and Rural Banks, will roll out a soft loan scheme up to a total of six hundred million cedis (GH¢600 million), which will have a one-year moratorium and two-year repayment period for micro, small and medium scale businesses.

"Fellow Ghanaians, it is vital that we protect the lives of our frontline health workers, who are risking their lives every day to battle this virus. That is why Government is placing a high priority on the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPEs) for them. Thus far, three hundred and fifty thousand (350,000) masks, five and fifty-eight thousand, six hundred and fifty (558,650) examination gloves, one thousand (1,000) reusable goggles, twenty thousand (20,000) cover-alls, seven thousand (7,000) N-95 respirators, five hundred (500) waterproof gumboots, two thousand (2,000) reusable face shields, two thousand (2,000) gallons of hand sanitizers, ten thousand (10,000) 100ml pieces of hand sanitizers, and five hundred (500) shoe covers have been sent to the regional health directorates, for onward distribution to the district health directorates for use by our health workers in all the districts. The Minister for Health is ensuring that they reach the health workers. This, notwithstanding, Government is aware that more needs to be done, especially in the face of the global shortage of PPEs.

It is for this reason that Government is actively engaged with local manufacturing companies to assist them in the domestic production of PPEs., and I am encouraged by the response from the Ghanaian private sector. Domestic production of face masks, head covers, surgical scrubs and gowns will commence from Tuesday. For example, three million, six hundred thousand face masks will be produced domestically, with an output of one hundred and fifty thousand (150,000) per day. I am equally impressed with the invention of a solar-powered handwashing sink by Jude Osei from Kumasi, and the 'COVID-19 prevention electronic bucket' made by Kelvin Owusu Dapaah and Richard Boateng, both students of Obuasi Senior High and Technical School. Necessity, indeed, is the mother of invention, as the Ghanaian sense of enterprise and innovation is beginning to be felt."

Insurance package
Sounds too good to be true. Isn't it?
Well, it's happening live in Ghana too.
An insurance package, with an assured sum of three hundred and fifty thousand cedis (GH¢350,000) for each health personnel and allied professional at the forefront of the fight, has been put in place, with a daily allowance of one hundred and fifty cedis (GH¢150) being paid to contact tracers. Government has also decided that all health workers will not pay taxes on their emoluments for the next three months, i.e. April, May and June. Furthermore, all frontline health workers will receive an additional allowance of fifty percent (50%) of their basic salary per month, i.e. for March, April, May and June. The March allowance will be paid alongside that of April. The Ministry of Transport is also making available, for free, 'Aayalolo' buses to convey health workers in Accra, Tema, Kumasi and Kasoa to and from work, along specific routes, for the entire duration of the restrictions.

Also, operators of public transport, such as trotros and taxis, are largely adhering to the admonition to observe social distancing in their vehicles. Each one of them should do so, hr announced.

Sanitation issues
Another area of concern is sanitation. And to ensure cleanliness of the country, especially in the Greater Accra and the Greater Kumasi areas, which are currently the subjects of the restrictions, the Ministry of Sanitation and Water Resources, together with some four hundred (400) personnel drawn from the Police, Military, Fire Service and Prisons Service, from Friday, 3rd April, to today, Sunday, 5th April, embarked on desilting gutters, collection and disposal of garbage from homes, public places, markets and vehicle terminals. Mr. Akufo-Addo advised, "We must ensure that the end of this exercise will lead to a new attitude towards cleanliness in our surroundings."

He believed that would be a positive legacy from this crisis. MMDAs outside the areas affected by the restrictions have been directed to emulate this clean-up exercise.

As at Saturday, 4th April 2020, markets and lorry terminals in thirteen (13) regions had been cleaned and sprayed, with the three (3) other regions set to follow in the coming few days. The authorities had had to take the extra step of closing a few markets in Accra and Kumasi, where traders and market women had flouted the rules for social distancing. Some districts have also embraced the policy of alternate-days-for-alternative-products, in a bid to decongest the markets and ensure social-distancing, he revealed.

The president acknowledged that he was fully aware of the disruptions to the lives of Ghanaians occasioned by these measures.

"Your personal movements, way of life, the education of your children, your livelihoods have all been disturbed by this virus. But, believe me, the measures are necessary if we are to free ourselves permanently of this pestilence."

President Akufo-Addo also continued his passionate to appeal to Ghanaians to observe prescribed social distancing and good personal hygiene to contain community spread. These enhanced hygiene protocols, he emphasised must become a part of our everyday lives.

"We must not abandon them. And, remember, that the law enforcement agencies are going to increase their enforcement of the stay-at-home directive. Do not leave your homes other than for the essential, stipulated reasons. The cynics question our capacity for the maintenance of discipline in this period, and in its aftermath; however, I am confident that we will prove them wrong. Ghanaians always rise up to the occasion, and we will do so again. United, we are going to win this battle," he noted.

By Gordon Offin-Amaniampong

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