Government will target 1 September to reopen airports: Akufo-Addo

President Akufo-Addo says his government is targeting 1 September 2020 as the date to reopen Kotoka Airport to international traffic

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo says his government is targeting 1 September 2020 as the date to reopen the country’s airports to international flights.

However, all passengers arriving in Ghana will be required to take a rapid COVID-19 test at the airport. While the full details of the health protocols are not yet out, information picked up by Asaase Radio suggests that, on arrival, passengers will have to wait a couple of hours at the airport for their results.

Apparently, once a passenger tests negative, he or she will be free to go, but those who test positive for the virus will have to be quarantined for the mandatory two weeks.

On 21 March 2020 the president closed all of the country’s borders to human traffic to try to contain the outbreak in Ghana of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The borders have remained closed, with the exception of special dispensations for the evacuation of stranded Ghanaians back to Ghana.

Asaase Radio can confirm that over the past two months, both the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) and the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR) have taken several rapid test kits through vigorous three-stage testing regimes. Most of them failed. Sources at the FDA say that at last approval has been granted to one kit, which is what has made it possible for the president to consider reopening the airport to international flights.

The task now is for aviation officials to put in place what is expected to be a 24-hour protocol to create an environment that allows for efficient testing and can accommodate the numbers of passengers who will arrive in the country.

Our information is that the test results can be known in as quickly as three minutes, if negative, or more, if positive, depending on the viral load. But it will never take more than 15 minutes for any passenger to have his or her test results confirmed.

Getting ready

In his 15th address to the nation since the first case of COVID-19 was recorded in Ghana, President Akufo-Addo said that, under his instructions, the Ministry of Aviation is working with the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), Ghana Airports Company Ltd (GACL) and Ministry of Health to prepare the ports of entry. They will be set up to enable them to resume receiving passengers and processing them through rapid testing for COVID-19 in order to avoid further importation of the deadly virus into Ghana.

“I know many still ask when our borders, especially our international airport, Kotoka International Airport, will be open. Under my instructions, the Ministry of Aviation, the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority and the Ghana Airports Co Ltd, have been working, with the Ministry of Health and its agencies, to ascertain our readiness to reopen our airports,” President Akufo-Addo said.

“I want to ensure that we are in a position to test every single passenger that arrives in the country to avoid the spread of the virus. The outcome of that exercise will show us the way, and determine when we can reopen our border by air. I am hoping that, by God’s grace, we will be ready to do so by 1 September,” the president added.

President Akufo-Addo further announced that the country’s air, land and sea borders will remain closed to human traffic until further notice. However, he added that, for Ghanaians who may still be stranded abroad, special dispensation will continue to be given “for their evacuation back to Ghana, where they will be subjected to the mandatory quarantine and safety protocols”.

Limits on conferences

For conferences, workshops and other events scheduled to take place in Ghana, President Akufo-Addo said the existing limitations on numbers have been lifted.

However, conference organisers are required to ensure that all COVID-19 safety protocols are respected and adhered to fully.

“The limit on the numbers of persons who can attend conferences, workshops and award events has now been lifted, subject to the maintenance of social distancing amongst participants, fresh-air ventilation of the premises, and a two-hour limit for each session,” the president said.

Need to remain responsible

The president reiterated the duty of care that COVID-19 has imposed on every citizen. All Ghanaians must keep a clean environment and observe all the hygiene protocols as prescribed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and Ghana Health Service (GHS), he stressed.

“Fellow Ghanaians, let us remember at all times that this phased opening up of our country continues to put an obligation and responsibility on each one of us to remain vigilant, and respect the enhanced hygiene, mask wearing and social distancing protocols that have become part and parcel of our daily routine.

“They are proving to be effective, so let us employ them wholeheartedly. That is the way we can restore, as quickly as possible, the blessings of normalcy for which we all yearn,” President Akufo-Addo said.

“There is no room for complacency. We must be very much on our guard, because some countries have experienced spikes after recording major achievements in containing the spread of the virus.

“We should not go down that road. Social distancing, enhanced hygiene and wearing of masks are obligatory for each one of us,” the president said.

Wilberforce Asare / Asaase Radio

* Asaase Radio 99.5 – tune in or log on to broadcasts online.

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