Ghana moved swiftly to ban mass cluster gatherings, including prayer sessions in mosques and churches, as the country’s number of infected cases of the COVID-19 pandemic climbed from two to six Sunday.
President Nana Akufo-Addo, in an address on Sunday evening, ordered the suspension of public gatherings, including religious services for the next four weeks.
“I have decided in the interest of public safety and the protection of our population to review the public gathering advisories earlier announced as follows: Firstly, all public gatherings including conferences, workshops, funerals, festivals, political rallies, sporting events and religious activities, such as services in churches and mosques, have been suspended for the next four (4) weeks,” the president said.
The president further directed that all schools, including universities and basic schools, be closed down from Monday, March 16, 2020, until further notice. Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) and West African Senior School Certificate Examination candidates will however be allowed to attend school.
“All Universities, Senior High Schools, and basic schools, i.e. public and private schools, will be closed Monday, 16th March 2020, till further notice. The Ministry of Education, in collaboration with the Ministry of Communication, has been tasked to roll out distance learning programmes. However, BECE and WASSCE candidates will be allowed to attend school to prepare for their examinations, but with prescribed social distancing protocols,” the president added.
Prior to the president’s directives, schools had already started closing down. The Ghana International School in a communique, on Friday, March 13, 2020, announced a temporary close down following the first two reported cases. Other international schools including the Lincoln Community School and the Roman Ridge school had also done the same.
The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ghana, Ebenezer Owusu, had earlier on Sunday directed the suspension of lectures following confirmation that one of its students had tested positive to the coronavirus.
Earlier on Sunday, four more cases of the coronavirus were announced by the Director of Public Health at the Ghana Health Service, Badu Sarkodie, at a press briefing on Sunday afternoon.
“This brings to a total of six confirmed COVID-19 cases in Ghana, there are no deaths and this is the situation as at March 14, 2020. All six cases were imported into Ghana,” Sarkodie said.
The new cases include a female student of the University of Ghana who had returned from the United States of America.
The first two index cases, imported from Norway and Turkey, were announced on Thursday, March 12, 2020.
Ghana also announced a travel ban from countries with over 200 COVID-19 cases, with the country’s information minister, Oppong Nkrumah, saying at a press briefing that travellers from such countries will not be allowed into the country.
“All travel to Ghana is strongly discouraged until further notice. Any traveller, except for Ghanaian citizens and persons with Ghana residence permits, who within the last 14 days, has been to a country that has recorded at least 200 cases of COVID-19, will not be admitted into the Ghanaian jurisdiction. Airlines are instructed not to allow such persons to embark. Border posts are instructed not to allow such persons into the jurisdiction,” he said.
Persons who are otherwise allowed into the country will be mandated to self-quarantine for 14 days.
“There will be a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine for persons who are otherwise allowed to enter the Ghanaian jurisdiction,” the minister said.
Mr Nkrumah announced a dedicated website to update the public on the outbreak. He said the website will be updated every six hours to keep Ghanaians informed.