Fellow Ghanaians, good evening. It has been eight (8) weeks since our nation embarked on a co-ordinated, enhanced response towards combating the Coronavirus pandemic after we recorded our first two (2) confirmed cases. We have taken the necessary measures of aggressively tracing, testing, isolating, and treating infected persons and their contacts, as a means of containing the spread of the virus amongst the population.
Measures such as the temporary partial lockdown of Accra, Tema, Kumasi and Kasoa, the adherence to enhanced hygiene and social distancing protocols, the ban on public gatherings, and the closure of our schools and our borders have imposed considerable difficulties on all of us. But, I am heartened that we appreciate that they are essential to save lives and livelihoods, and I thank all of you for your continuing co-operation.
As at Wednesday, 6th May, a total of one hundred and thirty-five thousand, nine hundred and two (135,902) tests had been conducted, with our country’s total number of confirmed cases standing, at the time, at three thousand, and ninety-one (3,091), with three hundred and three (303) recoveries, and, sadly, eighteen (18) deaths. On Thursday, 7 th May, fourteen thousand and forty-six (14,046) more tests were conducted, and this included the clearing of the last set of backlogs. Our total confirmed cases, then, rose to four thousand and twelve (4,012) positives, i.e., nine hundred and twenty-one (921) new cases.
Our recoveries stood at three hundred and twenty-three (323), eight (8) persons were critically ill, and deaths still at eighteen (18). It is important to stress that five hundred and thirty-three (533) out of the nine hundred and twenty-one (921) new cases recorded between last Wednesday and Thursday are factory workers from a fish processing factory 2 located in Tema. All five hundred and thirty-three (533) persons were infected by one (1) person. Again, let me reiterate that these new nine hundred and twenty-one (921) cases were from backlogs dating as far back as 26th April, and not necessarily over a twenty-four (24) hour window.
The coming on stream of seven (7) more testing facilities across the country, to complement the efforts of the Noguchi Research Institute, the Kumasi Centre for Collaborative Research, and the National Public Health Reference Laboratory at the Korle-bu Teaching Hospital, have meant that we have been able to clear all the backlog of tests, and the reporting on the cases of infections since Friday, 8th May, is now current. On Friday, a total of five thousand, two hundred and fifty-three (5,253) tests were conducted, with two hundred and fifty-one (251) positives. On Saturday, two thousand, two hundred and fifty-five (2,255) tests were conducted, with two hundred and sixty-six (266) found to be positive. For today, Sunday, a total of three thousand and forty-five (3,045) tests have been done, with one hundred and sixty (160) testing positive.
These relatively lower daily numbers of infections are welcome, and reinforces the fact that the measures instituted to help reduce person-to-person contact, and help defeat the pandemic are working. So, as at today, Sunday, 10th May, the country has conducted a total of one hundred and sixty thousand, five hundred and one (160,501) tests, with our total number of infections standing at four thousand, seven hundred (4,700), with four hundred and ninety-four (494) recoveries, five (5) persons being critically ill, and four thousand, one hundred and seventy-nine (4,179) persons responding to treatment.
Twenty-two (22) persons, virtually all of them with underlying illnesses such as hypertension, diabetes and chronic liver disease, have unhappily died.
We must understand that the more people we test for the virus, the more persons we will discover as positive, and, thus, have the opportunity to isolate and treat them. If you do not test people for the virus, you will not find the persons who are positive, let alone isolate them from the population and treat them, and prevent them from spreading the virus.
Indeed, had we 3 not been proactive in undertaking enhanced contact tracing of infected persons, and had relied solely on testing persons who reported to hospital, which is the practice followed by some other countries, i.e. routine testing, our total case count would have stood at one thousand, four hundred and thirteen (1,413).
The other three thousand, two hundred and thirty-two (3,232), i.e. two-thirds (⅔) of the population of positives, would have been undetected, and still be within the population, unknowingly infecting others. I know some political actors will want you to believe that our current numbers represent a failure on the part of Government. Do not begrudge them. They need to make such comments for their political survival. On the contrary, we must be emboldened in the knowledge that the four thousand, seven hundred (4,700) persons infected, so far, with the virus, have been identified, taken out of the population, isolated and are being treated.
The implementation of our strategy of aggressively tracing, testing, and treating is our surest way of rooting out the virus. This early identification of persons with the virus ensures that they do not spread the virus to others; we are provided with the opportunity to treat them, and it helps us to understand better the dynamics of the virus.
The rapid implementation of all of our policies has resulted in our low infection, hospitalisation and death rates, some of the lowest in Africa and the world.
We, certainly, must be doing something right in Ghana. Our country has administered more tests per million people than any other country in Africa, and, in fact, the World Health Organisation has reached out to us to share our sample pooling experience with other African countries, so they can adopt this strategy and also ramp up their testing capabilities.
It is, thus, vital that we continue to maintain the measures of enhanced hygiene and social distancing protocols to contain the spread of the virus, as they are the surest way to a quick return to a life of normalcy. All stakeholder bodies I have interacted with over the last three (3) weeks, in the health, labour, religious, chieftaincy, educational, hospitality, tourism and creative arts sectors, share in this opinion, because, collectively, we believe they are essential for our very survival. These groups are also being engaged on the way forward towards the easing of these restrictions, so that our social and economic lives can go back to normal, whilst protecting lives at the same 4 time. Soon, those engagements will enable us to design a clear roadmap for the easing of restrictions.
In my address to workers and the nation on May Day, I announced the extension of the closure of our borders for one more month as the means to continue halting the importation of the virus into our country. Tonight, I have come into your homes to announce that the ban on public gatherings, as set out in E.I 64, has been extended also to the end of the month, i.e. 31st May. So, during this period, there will continue to be a ban on public gatherings, such as the holding of conferences, workshops, parties, nightclubs, drinking spots, beaches, festivals, political rallies, religious activities and sporting events. All educational facilities, private and public, continue to remain closed. There is still a ban on funerals, other than private burials conducted with not more than twenty-five (25) persons.
It is noteworthy that the Police are arresting and prosecuting persons, irrespective of their status in society, who flout these regulations. We cannot allow a few persons, for their narrow, selfish interests, to jeopardise the health, well-being and safety of the larger population.
If you fall foul of the law, you will face its full rigours. Fellow Ghanaians, I, like you, would love to see an end to these restrictions.
I know the difficulties each and every one of you has been through over the last two months. You have had to alter completely your way of life; you have had to stay at home, except for specified purposes; you cannot travel outside the country; you cannot go to Church, and you had to cancel activities usually associated with Easter; in this Holy Month of Ramadan, our Muslim brothers and sisters are having to pray at home, instead of congregating at the Mosque, and foregoing the public celebration of the Eid; parents are having to bear the extra burden of providing care for their children who, instead of being in school, are currently at home; operators of trotros, taxis, buses, markets, hotels, restaurants, bars and nightclubs have lost the patronage of their clients, and, as a result, lost much needed incomes; significant numbers of people have, unfortunately, lost their jobs because of the impact of the virus on our economy; most of us want to hang out with our families, friends and loved ones in a social setting, but cannot.
Uncomfortable as these restrictions have been, we have no option but to stay the course. We can only guarantee the safety of each other if we continue to adhere to them. As I have said before, these restrictions cannot and will not be a permanent feature of our lives, and, shortly, I hope to announce the steps for, systematically, easing the restrictive measures to bring us back to normality. Each one of us, however, can help to speed up this process if we continue to practice the measures of social distancing, washing our hands with soap under running water, refraining from shaking hands, and, wearing our masks whenever we leave our homes. These measures must be respected by all.
We do this not just for ourselves, but also to lessen the workload on our health workers, who continue to be at the forefront of caring for those affected by the virus, and caring for the sick in general. On our part, in addition to the incentive package instituted for all healthcare workers, Government has so far distributed the following to healthcare facilities across the country: four million, two hundred and forty thousand, seven hundred and nineteen (4,240,719) gloves; two million, five hundred and seventy six thousand, three hundred and thirty three (2,576,333) nose masks; sixty thousand, eight hundred and twenty-three (60,823) goggles; sixty thousand, one hundred and thirty two (60,132) litres of sanitizers; fifty thousand, seven hundred and seventy (50,770) head covers; forty one thousand, nine hundred and ninety-two (41,992) gowns; forty-one thousand (41,000) medical scrubs; and thirty thousand, seven hundred and eighty-three (30,783) N-95 face masks.
Further, we have extended this gesture to other frontline actors engaged in the fight, with the presentation of five thousand (5,000) PPEs to members of the media, and tomorrow, Monday, 11 th May, ten thousand domestically-produced face masks and more money will be delivered to the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE), to enhance its capacity to undertake the important work it is already doing. Let me, once again, thank the healthcare workers, including all those responsible for the tracing, testing and treating, for their heroic contribution to the fight against the pandemic. They will be long remembered in our history. In advance, I say a hearty ayekoo to the Ghana Registered Nurses and Midwives Association, which celebrates its sixtieth (60th) anniversary on Tuesday.
This weekend, I chaired a three-day cabinet retreat, at Peduase Lodge, to examine in detail measures aimed at reviving and strengthening our economy. I am happy to reiterate that Government is putting in place a Resilience and Recovery Plan, with the overarching aim of finding more resources to strengthen the productive sectors of the economy to ensure sustained economic activity. We are rolling out a soft loan scheme of six hundred million cedis (GH¢600 million), in this month of May, to support micro, small and medium scale businesses, and, as you know, the commercial banks, with the support of the Bank of Ghana, have also instituted a three billion cedi (GH¢3 billion) credit and stimulus package, to help revitalise industries, especially in the pharmaceutical, hospitality, services, and manufacturing sectors.
The Minister for Finance is working tirelessly to find additional resources to supplement these amounts, including the resources to finance the construction of eighty-eight (88) district hospitals, ‘Agenda 88’, and seven (7) regional hospitals, which he will announce at the appropriate time to Parliament and the nation. Before bringing this address to an end, it is critical that I raise one significant side of the fight against this virus, which has not been given enough emphasis, but has to do with the change in attitude that will impact our lifestyles.
That has to be one of the permanent legacies of the pandemic. We have to improve our hygiene, our fitness and exercises, our eating, generally, our style of living, which will boost our immunity to disease and the virus. For instance, we are told that the key vitamins that fortify our immune system are vitamins A, B6, C, and E. Fortunately for us, in Ghana, all of these can be found in many of our foods, such as oranges, kontomire, millet, cashew nuts, crabs, plantain, okro, dawadawa, brown rice and mushrooms. Following a good diet, patronising our healthy foods, exercising regularly, ensuring our personal hygiene, and improving our lifestyle habits should become part and parcel of our daily routines, which will help bolster our immune systems, and help us in the fight against the pandemic.
Fellow Ghanaians, this virus, as we have seen the world over, is no respecter of persons, and has wreaked its havoc on every country on the planet. We can defeat it if we continue to look out for one another, and remain each other’s keeper. We are fighting a common enemy, and it is imperative that we do not allow religious, ethnic or political differences to get in the way of 7 certain victory.
So, we cannot allow a few persons, who wish to use these differences to scuttle our collective fight, to succeed. Over the course of our history as a people, we have had to overcome several trials and tribulations: slavery, imperialism, colonialism, tyranny and dictatorship, and we have overcome them all so that, with the help of the Almighty, we are, today, building a free, independent State, a State that, despite the urgency of the crisis, is governed by democratic institutions, and respect for fundamental human rights, especially freedom of speech.
That is as it should be, for we are determined in our generation to realise the dreams of freedom that animated and inspired the founders of our State. I am confident that we will overcome this pandemic, as well. This, too, shall pass! For the Battle is the Lord’s!! May God bless us all, and our homeland Ghana, and make her great and strong. I thank you for your attention, and have a good night.