President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has announced a pathway to easing the restrictions imposed to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, as the country bids to limit the economic damage in the wake of the scourge.
Analysts have predicted that the fallout of the pandemic is likely to push the economy towards a recession—with the latest move by the President seen as one of the measures to halt the slide.
Ghana’s initial response to the viral infection was to shut its borders to the outside world, while a ban on social gatherings was put in place to limit the spread of the virus.
But the President in his tenth address to the nation since the outbreak of the coronavirus said these restrictions cannot be in place forever, outlining plans to ease them.
“I know, at firsthand, the devasting impact the measures employed to defeat the virus have had on our social, religious, cultural and economic lives, as well as on our jobs and the education of our children; and yet, because of love of country, we have borne with them. I know, however, that we cannot live with these restrictions forever, and that it is imperative we find a safe way to return our lives to normality, as other nations across the globe are trying to do,” he said.
Nana Akufo-Addo announced that the government has reached a consensus with a number of stakeholders for a “controlled, progressive, safe easing of restrictions to get our lives and economy back to normal”.
According to him, government’s discussions with stakeholders in health, labour, religious, chieftaincy, education, hospitality and other sectors have hinged on an analysis of the data gathered on the pandemic and the adoption of best practices and experiences of other countries that have attempted to move on in the wake of the pandemic.
“Ours is going to be a phased approach, involving a selected list of public gatherings, based on their risk profile, socio-economic impact, and, most importantly, our capacity to enforce and to respond in the event of a flare-up in our number of infections,” the President said.
The first stage in the process of easing restrictions will see the partial reopening of schools to final-year students, who will resume classes in mid- to end-June ahead of the conduct of their respective exit examinations.
Additionally, religious services with a maximum number of 100 congregants at a time can take place in church or at the mosque, with a mandatory one-metre rule of social distancing between congregants.
Furthermore, the wearing of masks has been made mandatory in churches and mosques, while a register of names and contact details of all worshippers is to be kept. Hand washing facilities and sanitisers are to be provided, with a maximum duration of one hour for each service.
The President reiterated that sporting events, political rallies, and large religious gatherings such as crusades, pilgrimages and conventions remain suspended till July 31, with the country’s borders closed until further notice to human traffic.
“The introduction of this phased opening up of our country means that each and every one of us must continue to remain vigilant and respect the enhanced hygiene and social distancing protocols that have become part and parcel of our daily routine over the last three months. We cannot afford to let our guard down and ruin the successes we have chalked over this period,” Nana Akufo-Addo said.