“I think it’s very, very important that we tailor a specific Ghanaian, African response to the handling of this pandemic, and not necessarily copy blindly the methods that are being adopted by countries to the north of us and elsewhere.”
These were the words of the President of the Republic, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, on Thursday, 23rd April, 2020, when he joined colleague West African Heads of State for a virtual ECOWAS Extraordinary Summit on the Coronavirus pandemic.
Commending President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger, who is the ECOWAS Chairperson, for calling the Summit, President Akufo-Addo told the Assembly that the Ghanaian response to the Coronavirus pandemic is based on four principles.
These include, firstly, the Ghana approach, which is mobilising the social forces of the country, i.e. religious, scientific, academic, political and civil society, to deal with the threat of the pandemic.
“Secondly, that we are led and informed by the science and our data that we are able to assemble. We are also learning from the experience of governments of countries that are further down the road in responding to the pandemic. Then, finally, we think that it is an opportunity for us to continue to push with our Ghana Beyond Aid agenda,” he added.
To this end, President Akufo-Addo stated that the first decision taken by Ghana was to “try to limit and stop the importation of the virus”, since Ghana had discovered that “virtually all the cases we had in Ghana came from travelers who were coming into Ghana”.
That is why the decision was taken to ban travellers from the epicentres from coming into Ghana, and, subsequently, the complete closure of the borders. President Akufo-Addo urged West African leaders to manage and enforce the closure of their respective borders, to prevent illegal crossings.
To contain the virus, the President told the gathering that there has been an aggressive process of tracing and testing, with over 85,000 Ghanaians having been tested for the virus.
“So far, over 85,000 Ghanaians have been tested. We are looking to test as much as 100,000. This has enabled us to get a hang of the geographic footprint of the virus, of identifying the epicentres of our country, and also better understanding the dynamics of the virus, while we are treating and isolating infected cases,” he added.
In trying to stop community spread, President Akufo-Addo indicated that public gatherings have been banned, including the closure of churches and mosques and modalities put in place for the holding of funerals.
“We are encouraging the hygiene protocols – the washing of hands, the social distancing and also wearing face masks. Happily for us, under the present circumstances, our infection rate continues to be 1.5% of the screened population, and it has remained at this figure for some time. We are encouraged that, hopefully, we will see to its reduction,” he added.
To limit the impact of the virus on the economic and social life of Ghanaians, the President indicated that specific measures have been taken to provide relief for all Ghanaians, stressing that “we have relief programs to provide free water, subsidize electricity in order to deal with the impact on especially vulnerable segments of our society.”
The onset of the pandemic, President Akufo-Addo said, “has also given us an opportunity to scale up domestic production for medical material, protective equipment as well as medicines, sanitizers and the rest. We believe that with their sufficient support and inspiration from government, domestic manufacturers and local enterprises are capable of rising to the challenge to find us the opportunity to meet our needs from Ghana.”
Towards finding a vaccine for the virus, the President stated that “we want to get to the point where we can have an African vaccine to deal with the problem because the mutation of the virus is different, so we need to have our own way of dealing with it.”
Sharing strongly the views of Ivorian President, His Excellency Alasanne Ouattara, in the continuous pursuit of a regional agenda, the Ghanaian President stated that “I am also happy to hear that the Convergence Council is going to meet very soon to see where we are in terms of the developments that have taken place, and the impact that they have on our goals of monetary union.”
On the matter of debt relief for African countries, President Akufo-Addo supported “100% the view of President Macky Sall about the public debt”, and told the Assembly of the efforts being made by the the Ghanaian and South African Ministers of Finance to negotiate with the World Bank a debt standstill for the countries of the International Development Association.
“In the case of Ghana that debt standstill means that $500 million in interests and principles this year. We need to go beyond the debt standstill, we need actual debt relief. Therefore, the efforts that are being made should get the wholehearted support of all of us. I believe that the issue of debt relief should not just stay at public debt. The private debts also should be looked at,” he added.
In conclusion, President Akufo-Addo told his colleagues that “we are in new territories, these are extraordinary times, and it requires a unique level of solidarity amongst ourselves to be able to find lasting solutions.”