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The police and other security services will collaborate to strictly enforce the COVID-19 safety protocols, following an upsurge in the number of active cases, coupled with the discovery of new variants of the pandemic in the country.

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo announced last night that he had directed the police to enforce the wearing of face masks in public and related directives, while the regulatory agencies would undertake random checks to ensure conformity with COVID-19 rules.

“I have instructed the Inspector General of Police (IGP) 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,” the President said in his 22nd broadcast to the nation on Ghana’s Enhanced Response to the COVID-10 pandemic.

He charged people at marketplaces and workplaces and operators of public transport to also conduct their activities in accordance with the hygiene and safety protocols.

“The wearing of masks in these places is mandatory. The regulatory agencies will undertake random checks to ensure conformity with COVID-19 rules,” he said and cautioned: “Should any facility or institution fail to comply with these directives, its activities will be immediately prohibited and appropriate sanctions applied.”

He reminded all Ghanaians that there were punishments on the statute books for people who broke the law on the mandatory wearing of face masks.

“Should anyone be arrested by the security agencies disregarding this directive, that person will be dealt with strictly in accordance with law,” President Akufo-Addo said.

Upsurge

Describing the new figures as “unpleasant news”, the President said there had been an upsurge in the number of active cases, from a little over 900 to 1,924.

“Our COVID-19 treatment centres have gone from having zero patients to now being full because of the upsurge in infections,” he said.

He said particularly worrying was the news that the Ghana Health Service (GHS) was, on the average, recording 200 new cases of infections daily.

“The number of patients requiring hospitalisation and intensive care is rising. The number of severe cases, which stood at 18 a week ago, has increased sharply to 120,” he said.

The President said while there was no critical case two weeks ago, currently, there were 33 such cases in the treatment facilities.

Making reference to statistics from the GHS, he said a considerable number of severely ill people, surprisingly, were the youth with no previous underlying health conditions.

On the number of confirmed deaths, he said it had also increased, since his 21st address, from 338 to 352 currently.

New variants

President Akufo-Addo said the new variants of the COVID-19 had been traced principally to passengers arriving in the country from abroad.

“Recent genomic sequencing undertaken by our scientists has 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,” he said.

“Detailed investigations of the cases indicate that, apart from arriving passengers at our airport who tested positive, infected persons have a recent history 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,” he explained.

Economy threatened

The President warned that if the rising cases were not checked, it would have a debilitating effect on healthcare infrastructure.

Eventually, he said, it would seriously undermine the government’s efforts at revitalising the economy, a development which, he noted, would draw back the nation’s progress and prosperity.

Caution to students

President Akufo-Addo advised pupils and students, to whom the year 2020 might appear very unfamiliar, as they witnessed a lot of struggles and the year marked a setback for their preparation for the future, to put the past behind them, saying “much of that depends on you”.

“As we take these big steps to go back to school, your attitude, behaviour and self-discipline will decide whether or not our schools will remain open,” he said.

He pleaded with the pupils and students to 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 sanitise 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,” the President said.

Steps for protection

President Akufo-Addo said as pupils and students in kindergarten, primary, junior high school, senior high school (SHS) Two and Three return to school today, the government had taken the required steps to ensure their safety in school.

He said heads of institutions, as well as their teachers, had undergone the requisite orientation on “Guidelines for school reopening during COVID-19”, to enable them to assist with compliance of students to the protocols (refer to page 16).

He said he was encouraged by the preparations being made by many schools, in some cases with the support of their old students associations and parent-teacher associations (PTAs).

“On our part, the government has also undertaken the fumigation and disinfection of schools and the provision of sanitiser, masks, liquid soap, Veronica buckets, rolls of tissue paper, face shields for learners and staff with hearing impairment and gloves for caregivers and attendants for schools across the country,” he said.

The President added that all SHSs had been mapped to medical facilities across the country, so that any outbreak of the disease in any such school could be duly contained.

Suspected cases in primary and JHSs would be managed by district health teams through the School Health Programme and the COVID-19 Rapid Response teams, he said.

Lockdown

President Akufo-Addo said much as the government would not want a return to the days of partial lockdowns, with all the negative impact on the economy and the way of life, it would be compelled to do so if the number of active cases continued to increase at the current rate.

“I will have no option but 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,” he counselled.

He said the government was intensifying its strategy of enhanced tracing, testing and treating to allow for the identification of infected persons, isolate 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 GHS,” he said.

The President warned that there would be sanctions against laboratories that failed to comply.

“We have also provided additional logistics, including vehicles, for the GHS for the supervision and monitoring of asymptomatic cases being managed from home.

Additionally, he said, the government was reactivating available treatment and isolation facilities across the country in anticipation of any further increase in infections.

He said the provision of adequate medicines, equipment and personal protective equipment to enable health workers to attend to home-based patients was equally being effected.


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