9 key points from Akufo-Addo’s address on coronavirus

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President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo on Wednesday, March 11, 2020 addressed the country on the measures put in place to enhance Ghana’s coronavirus preparedness and response plan.

Already, all of Ghana’s immediate neighbours [Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire and Togo], have recorded confirmed cases of infections, and countries like Italy, where there is a large population of Ghanaians, have escalated their response to the outbreak.

With the number of cases outside China increasing in 13-fold in two weeks, Denmark which has 514 confirmed cases, up 10-fold since Monday among other cases in many countries, the World Health Organisation (WHO) labelled coronavirus as a pandemic, hence the need to take precautions.

Below are 9 key things from the president’s address:

1. $100m provided to enhance coronavirus preparedness

President Akufo-Addo said he had directed the Minister for Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta, to make available the cedi equivalent of $100 million to enhance Ghana’s coronavirus preparedness and response plan.

This amount, according to President Akufo-Addo, “is to fund expansion of infrastructure, purchase of materials and equipment, and public education.”

2. 57 suspected coronavirus cases in Ghana test negative

Amidst reports of suspected cases, the president allayed fears, stressing that Ghana has so far remained an outlier in terms of fatalities.

“Our country’s two main research institutions, the Noguchi Memorial Institute and the Kumasi Centre for Collaborative Research, which have the capacity to investigate and confirm or otherwise suspected cases of Coronavirus infections, have been very supportive in this regard. So far, they have found that the fifty-seven (57) suspected cases, as of today, Wednesday, 11th March, have proved negative,” he said.

3. Ghana well placed to minimise economic impact of coronavirus

The outbreak has undoubtedly left businesses around the world counting costs. China makes up a third of manufacturing globally and is the world’s largest exporter of goods. But the BBC reports that activity has decreased in the so-called “workshop of the world” as factories pause their operations to try to contain the spread of Covid-19.

President Akufo-Addo assured the country that his government is taking steps to handle any adverse impacts the outbreak could have on the country’s economic fortunes.

He said: “Government is analyzing the potential impact on our economy to the virus and will trigger the relevant response to minimize it. We have begun to engage the domestic pharmaceutical industry to assist in producing as much of the logistics to prevent and combat the virus as it is possible under the circumstances.”

4. Domestication

President Akufo-Addo urged all to fall on local products as it is not safe to import. As he put it: “…we must take advantage of the crisis to strengthen our domestic productive capacity so that we can advance our self-reliance and reduce our dependence on foreign inputs. Necessity they say is the mother of invention.”

5. Desist from all foreign travels

Indeed, the pandemic status of coronavirus makes it unsafe for people to travel outside the country as they could be infected. The president hence urged citizens to desist from foreign travels where possible.

“…all of us as much as possible, [must] desist from all foreign travels, except the most critical ones, until there is a grip on the virus,” he said.

“I have, as at yesterday, ordered a suspension of all international travels by public officials. Except for critical assignments, which will have to be authorised by the Chief of Staff at the Office of the President, all public officials are to remain within the jurisdiction, until further notice. Video conferencing facilities and other technological tools are to be utilised, whenever possible, for international engagements,” the president added.

6. Points of entry prepared

Amidst suggestions that Ghana is not adequately prepared as the borders are relatively loose, the president gave full assurance that the entry points such as the airports and land borders continue to show satisfactory preparedness to screen all entrants into the country, with the Ministry of Health designating a quarantine facility that can hold infected persons, whilst regional hospitals are preparing isolation centres for holding suspected cases.

7. Call on the media

President Akufo-Addo called on the media to “join this cause fully and help disseminate effectively information on the dos and don’ts of the disease.”

The information to put out, he said, “must be that approved by health authorities and not just from any piece of literature found on the internet, as false materials are already being spread from other jurisdictions”

8. Observe safety measures at public gatherings

The president appealed to “civil society organisations, schools, universities, faith-based organisations and places, which harbour large gatherings, such as classrooms, lecture halls, meetings, parties and funerals, to put in place mechanisms to caution and assist patrons on basic preventive measures.”

9. Fighting coronavirus a collective responsibility

According to the president, the fight requires an ‘all hands on deck’ approach. Government alone cannot fight coronavirus. There is, therefore, the need for every citizen to be cautious and observe safety measures.

He said: “It is imperative that we step up our preparedness to ensure that beyond these initial, satisfactory measures, we adopt a ‘whole of Ghana’ approach in adequately preparing for a possible hit within our borders.”

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