Akufo-Addo excludes Eastern region from ban on public gatherings

Despite the rising cases of Coronavirus in the Eastern Region, President Nana Akufo-Addo has excluded the region in his latest extension ban on public gatherings including religious activities, marriages ceremonies, birthday parties and funerals by an additional two weeks.

Ghana’s COVID-19 case count has risen to 566. This comes after the Ghana Health Service confirmed 158 new cases, and the Eastern Region now has the third-highest number of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus,  after Greater Accra and Ashanti regions.

The region, which President Akufo-Addo’s home region, has recorded 28 cases of the novel coronavirus but interestingly, it is not on lockdown to restrict human movements, unlike Accra and Kumasi which were locked down with fewer cases. It is not clear what accounts for the exclusion.

The Director of Communications at the Presidency, Eugene Arhin said the extension takes effect from Monday, 13th April 2020. The announcement posted on his Facebook wall yesterday, did not mention any town in the Eastern Region although Accra, Tema and Kumasi in the Greater Accra and Ashanti regions, respectively, were mentioned.

But there are fears among health workers The Herald spoke to that, if the region is not locked down immediately, the situation will escalate. Mention was made of interactions and contacts between traders and buyers in various major markets across the region on different days of the week, and if care was not taken, things could run out of control.

“President Akufo-Addo has signed the Executive Instrument (EI) extending the duration of the restrictions imposed under EI 64 and EI 65. The restrictions imposed on public gatherings, under EI 64, have been extended for a further period of two (2) weeks, with effect from (today) Monday 13th April, 2020,” Eugene Arhin said in the Facebook post yesterday.

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo on March 15, 2020, in a television broadcast, declared the ban on all public gatherings including conferences, workshops, funerals, festivals, political rallies, church activities and other related events as part of measures to stop the spread of coronavirus in the country.

At the time, Ghana had recorded six cases of COVID-19. The President in that broadcast gave a caveat that private burials were permitted however mourners present must not exceed 25.

“Private burials are permitted, but with limited numbers, not exceeding twenty-five (25) in attendance,” Akufo-Addo said.

Already, schools have been shut down across the country. Most market places are open however under strict social-distancing protocols and the presence of handwashing facilities.

Some local assemblies have moved in to close markets where traders flout the social distancing directives.

Lockdown

Eugene Arhin reiterated the President’s directive for the restricted movement of persons within Accra, Tema and Kumasi to be extended by an additional week.

“As announced already, the restrictions imposed on the movement of persons in Accra, Tema, Kumasi and Kasoa, under EI 65, have been extended for a further period of one week with effect from Monday…All other provisions, including all exemptions in EI 64, and EI 65, are still in full force and effect,” he said.

Details of the president’s other directives as outlined in his March 2020 broadcast are as follows:

– The Government of Ghana’s Travel Advisory issued earlier today should be observed as announced;

– Businesses and other workplaces can continue to operate, but should observe prescribed social distancing between patrons and staff;

– Establishments, such as supermarkets, shopping malls, restaurants, night clubs, hotels and drinking spots, should observe enhanced hygiene procedures by providing, amongst others, hand sanitizers, running water and soap for washing of hands;

– The Ministry of Transport should work with the transport unions and private and public transport operators to ensure enhanced hygienic conditions in all vehicles and terminals, by providing, amongst others, hand sanitizers, running water and soap for washing of hands; and

– The Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development should co-ordinate, with the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies, measures to enhance conditions of hygiene in markets across the country.

Media reports are that, the Eastern Region until Good Friday had only one case, an Indian expatriate working with the Afcon construction company building the Tema-Akosombo rail project. From the case of the Indian expatriate, more than a dozen were recorded and later spiked to 28 cases in Eastern Region.

Reports that more cases were being recorded in the Eastern Region have provoked the need for more testing centres to be opened across the country aside the two; Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research and Kumasi Centre for Collaborative Research in Tropical Medicine (KCCR).

It is believed that additional testing centres will mean less pressure on the two and more test results made available faster and regularly especially contact tracing. These, according to experts The Herald spoke to, will get the country to appreciate the full extent of the pandemic and be able to control the spread.

Manya Krobo Municipal Health Director, Bismarck Sarkodie is reported that 20 new cases had been confirmed.

Eight of the new cases were said to have been recorded in the Lower Manya Krobo District.

However, the Deputy Eastern Regional Director of the Ghana Health Service, Dr Antobre Boateng is said to have contradicted the Manya Krobo Municipal Health Director, saying only 15 cases had been confirmed.

But the new cases are confirmed results from among 244 persons who were quarantined at the Afcon Construction Company in the Lower Manya Krobo Municipality where the Indian expatriate working on the Akosombo to Tema railway project tested positive for the virus in March.

Out of the 244 samples, 19 had contact with the Indian expatriate.

On April 9, 2020, the Eastern Regional Health Directorate announced that it had submitted a total of 373 samples of suspected coronavirus cases in the region to the Noguchi Memorial Institute, awaiting results.

It is not yet known if the new confirmed cases from the Eastern Region are part of the 65 new cases announced by the government, sending the national tally to 378.

The Ghana Health Service has yet to confirm the new cases announced by President Akufo-Addo during his sixth address to the nation on government’s measures to control the spread of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by Coronavirus.

Earlier, Municipal Health Director, Bismarck Sarkodie, said they were expecting more results from the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research where the samples had been sent for testing.

The national case count as announced by President Akufo-Addo, last Thursday night in his national address remains 378 with six deaths and four recoveries.

So far 10 out of the country’s 16 regions have recorded at least a case of the deadly infection. These are Greater Accra – 452, Ashanti – 49, Eastern – 32, Northern – 10, Volta – 9, Upper West –7, Upper East – 4, North East – 1, Western – 1 and Central – 1.