Fellow Ghanaians, good evening, and thank you, once again, for letting me into your homes.
Three weeks ago, I delivered Update No.18 on the measures being taken by Government to stem the tide of COVID-19 on our shores. I indicated that the number of recorded active cases, that is persons with the virus, was in decline, with the statistics pointing to the fact that we were on the path towards defeating the virus. Our nation, in the weeks prior to that address, had become accustomed to this downward slide of active cases.
In recent weeks, however, we have observed a gradual change in the trajectory of the virus, with an increase in active cases from the three hundred and ninety-eight (398) cases recorded three weeks ago, to one thousand, one hundred and thirty-nine (1,139) active cases, as at Friday, 6th November 2020. The total number of deaths now stands at three hundred and twenty (320), a great majority of them, still, with underlying illnesses, such as hypertension, diabetes, chronic liver disease and asthma.
The number of daily infections is on the rise, from an average of twenty-five (25) new cases per day then, to an average of over one hundred and thirty (130) new cases per day in the course of the last two weeks. In Greater Accra, with the exception of two (2) districts, all districts have reported cases. In contrast, we have only seen a cluster of cases in the other regions from only a handful of districts. These figures, obviously, give cause for concern, in view of what is happening in Europe and America, following the outbreak of a second wave of infections that is engulfing so many other countries.
An analysis of the active case data suggests that the Greater Accra Region accounts for some seventy-five percent (75%), with Ashanti, Bono, Eastern and Western being responsible for sixteen percent (16%) of active cases. The remaining eleven (11) Regions make up four percent (4%) of the cases, with arrivals at Kotoka International Airport responsible for the other five percent (5%).
Scientists at the West African Centre for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens, at the University of Ghana, Legon, collaborating with the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research, who are studying the genetic make-up of the virus in Ghana, have established that the virus has not changed. Our observation, however, is that a reduction in compliance with the preventive protocols accounts for the increase in infections.
Fellow Ghanaians, it appears that we are letting our guard down.
Now more than ever, we have to adhere to mask-wearing, handwashing, the use of sanitizers, and social distancing protocols that have become a part of our daily routines, and which has ensured that we do not impose, all over again, the restrictions we are seeing in other parts of the world.
In order to help arrest this new threat of rising infections, Government is going to reaffirm the steps that have served us well so far. We are enhancing the measures of tracing, testing and treatment, i.e. the 3Ts. In addition to this, we will continue to limit the importation of the virus, embark on the strategic, controlled easing of public gatherings, enhance public education and information, and continue to provide relief and support to individuals, families and businesses.
To this end, I have instructed the release of additional logistics, including vehicles, to the Ghana Health Service in order to help beef up contact tracing, and the supervision and monitoring of asymptomatic cases being managed from home. We are also employing the use of technology to augment our contact tracing efforts, as well as the supervision and monitoring of home care cases.
With the imposition of stringent testing measures at the airport, we have, so far, been able to detect one hundred and seventy-two (172) positive cases amongst some fifty-four thousand (54,000) arriving international passengers. The airport authorities will continue to demand that passengers arriving in the country should be in possession of a seventy-two (72)-hour old negative PCR test, and we will continue to sanction airlines that flout this directive. The health authorities will intensify the follow-up process of arriving passengers, even when they have tested negative to help ensure we have ruled out any possible infection that may have occurred during the period of embarkation and disembarkation.
In the area of testing, I have tasked the Ministry of Health, through the Ghana Health Service, to liaise with all laboratories and testing facilities across the country to ensure that reporting procedures are ironed out and adhered to.
In as much as our hospitalisation rates are very low, care for the sick and the provision of treatment remain an important aspect of our strategy. To this end, the one hundred-bed Ghana Infectious Diseases Centre, located at the Ga East Hospital, will be opened in the next few days, under the management of the Ghana Health Service. The provision of adequate medicines, equipment, and personal protective equipment to enable health workers attend to home-based patients has also been guaranteed.
As you know, Government, in trying to mitigate against the effects of the pandemic, put in place a number of measures to cushion ordinary Ghanaians and businesses. Government has extended the policy of free access to water for all households across the country until December, as well as fully absorbing electricity bills for one million active lifeline customers for the same period. The Communication Service Tax has also been reduced from nine percent to five percent, effective September 2020.
I am happy to announce that the incentive package for health workers has been extended to the end of the year. This means that all health workers will pay no income taxes for the months of October, November and December. Again, all frontline health workers, as defined by the Ministry of Health, will continue to receive the additional allowance of fifty percent (50%) of their basic salary per month, for the months of October, November and December.
Fellow Ghanaians, with a month to the conduct of the 7th December presidential and parliamentary elections, there would, obviously, be an intensification of political party activities in all parts of the country, with its accompanying human contact. Nevertheless, I encourage political party leaders and supporters, at the very at least, to wear the mask at all times at these gatherings.
This task is not only for the leaders of our political parties. All of us, in the Executive, Legislature, Judiciary, public sector, security agencies, private sector, civil society, professional and trade associations, religious bodies, traditional authorities and ordinary citizens, must do what we can, in this period, to help minimise disease transmission.
Furthermore, I urge management of organisations operating in confined, indoor spaces, such as workplaces and supermarkets, to ensure the continued adherence to all COVID-19 protocols at all times.
We have to maintain, in a state of constant readiness, the enhanced infrastructure and expertise we have built during the period of the virus to cope with it. I have seen at first-hand how, in some regions of our country, some residents are abandoning, altogether, the protocols, such as the wearing of masks, put in place to defeat the virus.
Indeed, the high compliance rate with mask-wearing of persons surveyed by the Ghana Health Service in some selected areas of Accra, for example, to which I referred optimistically in Update No.15, has, according to a new survey by the same Service, fallen alarmingly, from 44.3% to 5%. This is not acceptable, as the enhanced hygiene and mask-wearing protocols must now be central features of our lives, and they must continue to remain so for some time to come, until we see to the elimination of the virus from our country.
Let me reiterate my admonition from a few weeks ago. Severe sanctions exist in our laws for persons who want to continue to disregard these protocols, and for those who want to endanger the rest of the population through their actions and negligence. The law enforcement agencies will, where necessary, apply these measures without fear or favour.
Fellow Ghanaians, I am appealing to all of you to be even more disciplined in your adherence to personal hygiene, mask-wearing and social distancing measures. We cannot afford, at this critical moment, to OVthrow 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. It is very clear that the more we adhere to the protocols, the quicker we defeat the virus.
Fellow Ghanaians, this too shall pass! For the Battle is Still 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 good night.