1. I am happy that I have the opportunity this evening to engage with you, again, in your homes. I want, at the outset, to thank all of you for your prayers and expressions of good wishes when doctors advised me to go into quarantine for two (2) weeks. God being so good, I am back again at work. I thank you very much for your concern.
2. It has been almost five (5) months since our lives were turned upside down, and, indeed, the whole world was forced into a crisis of unimaginable proportions. This crisis, that dramatically affects lives and livelihoods, has plunged the world into unchartered waters, as even the experts admit that they are having to learn as we go along.
3. Fellow Ghanaians, back in March, most of us hoped passionately that the effects of the virus would wane quickly, once we took the steps that had been recommended to contain the spread. Even the most hard-headed expert opinion suggested that, by the middle of the year, the spread of the virus would be on the wane.
4. We are now at the end of July. The virus is still raging. There is not an effective treatment yet. As time goes on, we – and, indeed, the world – have come to understand that COVID-19 is not a problem, which will go away on its own.
5. It is not normal that we have to wear masks, but now we have to; it is not normal that we cannot shake hands with each other; and it is certainly not normal that we cannot hug our family members and loved ones; but that is our current reality. Until treatment is found, COVID-19 will remain a part of our lives.
6. Life cannot be put on hold indefinitely, and Ghana cannot remain in a never-ending crisis management situation, and that is why we have been putting measures in place to restore gradually some normalcy in our social and economic lives, as we learn to cope with the reality of the virus.
7. One hundred and twenty-seven thousand, one hundred and forty-three (127,143) of students in our Universities and other tertiary institutions have now all virtually completed their final examinations.
8. Mercifully, we have witnessed only a few cases of infections in our Universities and other tertiary institutions; the few students who tested positive in a few of our Senior High Schools have all either recovered or are on the path to full recovery, and will write the WASSCE; and the few final year Junior High School students, who have tested positive and who are largely asymptomatic, are being managed in isolation centres.
9. Government continues to engage with the stakeholders in the education sector to determine the conditions for the future re-opening of schools, after the current examinations are concluded by mid-September. I will keep you fully informed about the outcomes.
10. In my thirteenth (13th) update to the nation, I announced the extension of incentive packages for health workers by another three (3) months, i.e. July, August and September.
11. In the Finance Minister’s mid-year budget review, he, again, announced that all Ghanaians are to enjoy free water supply for another three months. I intend to have it reviewed at the end of the period.
12. Government is also extending free electricity supply to lifeline tariff customers until the end of the year. The Communication Service Tax has also been reduced from 9 percent to 5 percent, effective September 2020.
13. Once approved by Parliament, a National Unemployment Insurance Scheme will be instituted, and will provide temporary income support to workers that have lost their jobs.
14. Government is increasing funding, under the CAP Business Support Scheme, with an additional one hundred and fifty million cedis (GH¢150 million), to ensure an increased number of beneficiaries.
15. Furthermore, as indicated by the Minister for Finance, Government is establishing a Guarantee Scheme of some two billion cedis (GH¢2 billion) to enable businesses access credit at more affordable rates so they can survive, and better able to retain jobs.
16. I assure you that, under my watch as President of the Republic, Government will continue to work to create a diversified, transformed economy, fashion a conducive business climate that will deliver development, progress and prosperity for all Ghanaians. This is my solemn pledge to you.
17. At first glance, it is alarming to see that thirty-two thousand, nine hundred and sixty-nine (32,969) people have so far contracted the virus. But a closer look at the data will tell you that we are 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.
18. When I delivered Update No. 13, the number of active cases in the country, i.e. those who, as at 27th June, 2020, had the virus, stood at four thousand, two hundred and forty-five (4,245). As at midnight of 24th July, nearly a month later, the number of active cases in Ghana stands at three thousand, three hundred and seven (3,307).
19. Again, a month ago, the number of recoveries stood at twelve thousand, nine hundred and ninety-four (12,994). Today, it is twenty-nine thousand, four hundred and ninety four (29,494). This means our recovery rate has improved from seventy-five percent (75%) of positives, a month ago, to eighty-nine point five percent (89.5%), all in one month currently.
20. Our hospitalisation and death rates have, consistently, been very low, some 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.
21. The behaviour of this virus has baffled the experts and defied most predictions, but five months on, we can say that we are witnessing a much milder manifestation of the virus in the country, than was initially feared. The rate of virus-related deaths has remained, persistently, low at 0.5% of confirmed cases.
22. And, I dare say, it is the Grace of God and the measures taken by your Government, with your support, that have produced this result. It is also importantly due to the immense dedication and hard work being exhibited by our healthcare workers, who continue to care for those affected by the virus, and for the sick in general, and to whom we continue to remain indebted.
23. I must mention at this stage the completion and handing over on Friday of the one hundred (100) bed Ghana Infectious Diseases Centre at the Ga East Municipal Hospital. This is a world-class facility, which serves as an example of co-operation between the public and private sectors in our country. The project was conceived and executed by a group of private sector people, with the wholehearted support of Government and the Ghana Armed Forces.
24. 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 (1) to two (2) hours per service. Church leaders, who are desirous of implementing this enhanced easing directive, must ensure that congregants wear face masks at all times, and the one (1) metre social distancing rule is scrupulously applied. These same guidelines apply to worship in our Mosques.
25. With greater numbers of congregants likely to return for worship, I would, respectfully, ask the religious leaders to pay even greater attention to the fresh air ventilation of their premises, rather than relying on the use of air conditioners.
26. In consultation with the Ghana Tourism Authority and the health experts, I am announcing the reopening of our nation’s tourist sites and attractions, so they can 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.
27. Beaches, pubs, cinemas and nightclubs, however, remain closed until further notice.
28. Our female Under-20 and Under-17 national football teams have 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. Whilst in training, the playing, technical and management teams must observe strictly all the protocols issued by Government, CAF and FIFA against COVID-19. All other team and contact sports, and competitive sporting events remain suspended till further notice.
29. In consultation with the Ministries of Transport and Aviation, and the leadership of transport operators, 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. The wearing of masks in vehicles and aircrafts, and the maintenance of enhanced hygiene protocols, remain mandatory.
30. Private burials, still, with a maximum of one hundred (100) persons, can continue to be performed.
31. Our borders, by air, land and sea, remain closed until further notice for human traffic. However, given that there are Ghana residents stranded abroad, special dispensation will continue to be given for the evacuation of our nationals and residents back to Ghana, where they will be subjected to the mandatory quarantine and safety protocols.
32. As I have said before, the phased opening up of our country puts an individual obligation and responsibility on each one of us, and means that we must continue to remain vigilant, and respect the enhanced hygiene, mask wearing and social distancing protocols that have become part and parcel of our daily routine. We dare not ruin the successes we have chalked over this period.
33. There will always be those who will 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.
34. Our fight against the stigmatisation of persons, who have contracted COVID-19, continues in earnest. Those engaged in this anti-social act should stop, as stigmatisation drives away people from getting screened, tested and treated. The virus is no respecter of persons, and the overwhelming majority of persons who have tested positive, recover, indeed, have recovered, and are living perfectly normal lives, and pose no danger to anyone.
35. These changes I have announced transition us into a new phase of our COVID-19 fight, in which we teach ourselves how to live responsibly with Coronavirus. We do not expect to go back to the way things were five (5) months ago – but we should create a “new normal”, where we are constantly figuring out how to go to work, keep our businesses and places of worship open, send our children to school, and, all the time, keeping safe, containing the spread of the disease, and acting swiftly where and whenever hotspots appear.
36. This is the new, second phase we are entering today – Responsible behaviour, continuing State support, and living in Grace.
37. This Government is resolved and determined, in this second phase, to help Ghanaians fully return to their daily routines, whether it be going to work, going to school, going to a funeral or going to worship – all the while taking full precautionary measures to protect ourselves and our families from the virus.
38. I have never wavered in my deeply-held conviction that, if each one of us embraces the safety protocols, and we continue to put our faith in the Almighty, we will emerge strongly from this crisis. This too shall pass! For the Battle is the Lords!!