President Akufo-Addo relaxes more COVID-19 restrictions
By Hillary Obayangbon, Accra
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has announced further easing of COVID-19 restrictions covering congregational worshipping, entertainment sites, transport operations and football activities.
In his 14th address on update on the national response to the pandemic last night, the President said life could not be put on hold indefinitely once it was clear that until treatment was found, the COVID-19 would remain a part of the life of the people.
On congregational worshipping, he said the decision was based on the high level of compliance with the safety protocols demonstrated by the religious bodies.
“I am, therefore, very happy to announce that, in consultation with our church leaders, from 1st August, 2020, the restrictions on the number of congregants worshipping at a time in church will be lifted, with the length of worship extended from one to two hours per service,” he said.
“Church leaders, who are desirous of implementing this enhanced easing directive, must ensure that congregants wear nose masks at all times, and the one metre social distancing rule is scrupulously applied. These same guidelines apply to worship in our mosques,” he added.
President Akufo-Addo said with greater numbers of congregants likely to return for worship, it was incumbent on religious leaders to pay even greater attention to the fresh air ventilation of their premises, instead of relying on the use of air conditioners.
The President also announced the reopening of the nation’s tourist sites and attractions to enable them to begin to receive visitors.
“Open air drinking spots can now function. The management of these facilities are tasked to enforce enhanced hygiene and social distancing protocols,” he said.
However, he said, the beaches, pubs, cinemas and nightclubs remained closed until further notice.
On sporting activities, he mentioned only the female Under-20 and Under-17 national football teams as those benefitting, as all other team and contact sports and competitive sporting events remained suspended until further notice.
The two teams, he said, had been given the clearance to go into their respective training camps to begin preparations towards their FIFA and CAF-sanctioned international matches, which begin in September this year.
“While in training, the playing, technical and management teams must observe strictly all the protocols issued by the government, CAF and FIFA against the COVID-19,” he directed.
Perhaps the transport sector enjoyed the biggest share of the meat.
“The government has taken the decision to lift the restrictions in the transport sector and allow for full capacity in our domestic airplanes, taxis, trotros and buses,” President Akufo-Addo told the nation.
Nonetheless, he indicated, the wearing of masks in vehicles and aircraft and the maintenance of enhanced hygiene protocols remained mandatory.
While stating that the air, land and sea borders remained closed for human traffic until further notice, he added that against the fact that some Ghanaians were stranded abroad, special dispensation would continue to be given for the evacuation of such people back home.
While taking note of the successes the nation had chalked up over the period in the fight against the pandemic, the President noted that there were still people who would want to muddy the waters.
He said there were people who would “peddle untruths and embark on deliberate misinformation campaigns, especially in this era of fake news”.
“In their irresponsible bid to score cheap points, they escalate mistrust and heighten, unnecessarily, the anxiety levels over the disease in the country. As we work towards defeating this virus, we should reject completely those who seek to perpetuate falsehood, thereby creating fear and panic, and call them out when they do,” he said.
President Akufo-Addo reaffirmed the determination of his administration to save lives, jobs and livelihoods and revitalise the economy to safeguard the future of the country.
He said at a first glance, it could be alarming to see 32,969 people contract the virus in five months, adding: “But a closer look at the data indicates that the country is steadily on the path towards limiting and containing the virus and, ultimately, defeating it.”
“The figure to look out for is the number of active cases, and when I delivered Update No. 13, the number of active cases in the country, that is, those who, as of June 27, 2020, had the virus, stood at 4,245, but as of midnight of July 24, 2020, nearly a month later, the number of active cases in Ghana stands at 3,307.
“A month ago, the number of recoveries stood at 12, 994, but today it is 29,494,” he said.
According to the President, the recovery rate had improved from 75 per cent of positives a month ago to 89.5 per cent, all in one month.
He further noted that the hospitalisation and death rates had consistently been very low — one of the lowest in Africa and in the world.
“The Ghanaian people, mercifully, are not dying of the virus in the hundreds and thousands that were earlier anticipated and predicted, and that are being seen on a daily basis in some other countries,” he stated.