Fellow Ghanaians, good evening.
Before I start, let me use this opportunity to thank you all and Almighty God for enabling me to swear, for the second time, the oath of office as President of the Republic. The ceremony took place after I last spoke to you. I promise I will do my very best to live up to your expectations.
I am coming into your homes tonight with some rather unpleasant news. When I delivered Update No. 21, some two weeks ago, I urged all of us to continue adhering to the enhanced hygiene and mask-wearing protocols that have served us well, and which led us to the situation where we were witnessing a gradual decline in the number of active cases.
However, since that time, we have seen an upsurge in the number of active cases, from a little over nine hundred (900) to one thousand, nine hundred and twenty-four (1,924). Our COVID-19 treatment centres have gone from having zero patients to now being full because of the upsurge in infections.
Particularly worrying is the fact that the Ghana Health Service is recording, on the average, two hundred (200) new cases of COVID infections daily. The number of patients requiring hospitalisation and intensive care is rising. The number of severe cases, which stood at eighteen (18) a week ago, has increased sharply to one hundred and twenty (120). Two weeks ago, there was no critical case, we now have thirty-three (33) in our treatment facilities. Again, according to statistics from the Ghana Health Service, the considerable number of persons who are severely ill are, surprisingly, relatively youthful persons, with no previous underlying health conditions. The number of confirmed deaths has increased, sadly, from three hundred and thirty-eight (338) persons to three hundred and fifty-two (352) within the period.
Recent genomic sequencing undertaken by our scientists have established that some arriving passengers tested positive for new variants of COVID-19. These passengers have all been isolated. Furthermore, work is ongoing to determine the presence and extent of spread of the new variants in the general population.
Detailed investigations of the cases indicate that, apart from arriving passengers at our airport who tested positive, infected persons have recent histories of attending parties, weddings, end of year office programmes, family get-togethers, and funerals. At these gatherings, most of them abandoned the use of the masks, and were engaged in actions that led to them contracting the virus.
Fellow Ghanaians, at this current rate, whereby thirteen (13) out of the sixteen (16) regions have recorded active cases, our healthcare infrastructure will be overwhelmed. If this situation continues, it will severely undermine the efforts Government is making to revitalize the economy, and put our nation back onto the path of progress and prosperity, following the ravages of the pandemic.
On 7th January, as I said, I swore to “dedicate myself to the service and well-being of the people of the Republic of Ghana, and to do right to all manner of persons.” It is my duty to protect lives and livelihoods.
In furtherance of this, I have instructed the Inspector General of Police to direct officers, men and women of the Police Service to ensure the rigorous enforcement of the law on mask wearing at all public places and in public transport. They are also to ensure the closure of all night clubs, pubs, cinemas and beaches that may be operating in defiance of the law. They will be assisted by the other security agencies, if need be.
Persons in market places, work places, and operators of public transport must conduct their activities in accordance with the hygiene and safety protocols. The wearing of masks in these places is mandatory. Regulatory agencies will undertake random checks to ensure conformity with COVID-19 rules. Should any facility or institution fail to comply with these directives, its activities will be immediately prohibited, and appropriate sanctions applied.
It is important that I remind all Ghanaians that severe punishments exist on our statute books for persons breaking the law on the mandatory wearing of masks. Should anyone be arrested by the security agencies disregarding this directive, that person will be dealt with strictly in accordance with law.
We do not want to go back to the days of partial lockdowns, which had a negative impact on our economy and on our way of life. But should that become necessary, i.e., should the number of active cases continue to increase at the current rate, I will have no option but to re-impose these restrictions because it is better to be safe than to be sorry. So, together, let us all ensure that we respect the protocols.
Government is intensifying its strategy of enhanced 3Ts, i.e. tracing, testing and treating, to allow us identify infected persons, isolate them, and treat them. A considerable number of contact tracers are being mobilised to follow up on contacts of all who test positive. All laboratories, public and private, must supply, in real time, data on all persons tested on the common platform established by the Ghana Health Service. There will be sanctions against laboratories who fail to comply. We have also provided additional logistics, including vehicles, to the Ghana Health Service for the supervision and monitoring of asymptomatic cases being managed from home.
Additionally, Government is reactivating available treatment and isolation facilities across the country in anticipation of any further increase in infections. The provision of adequate medicines, equipment, and personal protective equipment to enable health workers attend to homebased patients is being effected.
Fellow Ghanaians, as our children in kindergarten, primary, junior high school, SHS 2 and SHS 3 resume school from tomorrow, I wish to reiterate that Government has taken the required steps to ensure their safety in school. Heads of institutions, as well as their teachers, have undergone the requisite orientation on “Guidelines for school re-opening during COVID-19”, to enable them assist with compliance of students to the protocols.
I have been encouraged by the preparations being made by many schools, in some cases, with the support of their old student associations and PTAs, in anticipation of the return on Monday. On our part, Government has also undertaken the fumigation and disinfection of schools, and the provision of sanitisers, masks, liquid soaps, Veronica Buckets, rolls of tissue paper, face shields for learners and staff with hearing impairments, and gloves for care givers and attendants, to schools across the country. All Senior High Schools have been mapped to medical facilities across the country, so that any outbreak of the disease in any such school can be duly contained. Suspected cases in primary and junior high schools will be managed by district health teams through the School Health Programme and the COVID-19 Rapid Response Teams.
The world is facing a learning crisis – a crisis that is further worsening inequalities in access to education, with children from poorer homes and communities being worst hit. This learning crisis has serious implications for the future of our country. This is especially worrying for me because I have placed education at the centre of the social and economic progress and prosperity of Ghana, and of her political stability.
That is why, in our attempt to mitigate the impact of the pandemic, the CAPBuss initiative, being administered by the National Board for Small Scale Industries, has started disbursements to applicants from private educational institutions, many of whom have been hard-hit by the pandemic. More disbursements to these institutions are being processed.
I now wish to speak directly to the students and children returning to school, and those of you who have already returned. I know that, for most of you, 2020 was a very unfamiliar year, and presented a setback for your preparation for the future. You all saw the struggle your parents, especially working parents, went through with you at home due to school closures. You also know how you struggled to learn from home, even for those of you lucky enough to continue with some of your classes online. The frustrations, the idleness, the absence of classroom or study group intimacy – it has all been extremely difficult for you, your parents, teachers and everybody involved. This is something we should all try to put behind us. Much of that depends on you.
As we take these big steps to go back to school, your attitude, your behaviour, your self-discipline will decide whether or not our schools will remain open.
I am pleading with you, please observe the COVID-19 protocols at all times. You must maintain the level of discipline and sense of responsibility to stop the virus from spreading in your schools and, for day students, at home, as well. Wear your masks at all times. Wash and sanitize your hands regularly. Protect yourself. Protect each other. Protect your teachers. Protect your parents. But, please, do not give me a reason to close down schools again. I pledge to do my best to keep your education going. I want you to assure me, your parents, your teachers and society as a whole, through your actions, that you will do your part as well.
Fellow Ghanaians, I urge all of us to continue to live responsibly with the virus, even as we work towards accessing the vaccine. Details of the access and roll-out plan will be announced very soon. Let us work constantly at how to do our work, keep our businesses and places of worship open, and send our children to school, all in safety.
Government, for its part, is resolved and determined to help ensure that we are able to return to our normal daily routines, i.e. going to work, going to school, going to shop, going to the market, going to a funeral, going to the pub, going to the club, going to the cinema, going to the beach, going to the stadium, or going to worship. We can achieve this result if we co-operate and work together. It is essential that we protect ourselves, our families and our loved ones from the virus. It is a collective responsibility.
If we embrace the safety protocols, i.e. the enhanced hygiene and mask-wearing protocols, and we continue to put our faith in Almighty God, we will see light at the end of this tunnel. Zero active cases – that is the goal. We can and must reach it.
Fellow Ghanaians, in all sincerity, I repeat that this too shall pass! For the Battle is the Lords!!
May God bless us all, and our homeland Ghana, and make her great and strong.
I thank you for your attention, and good night.