Mr Ambrose Dery, the Minister of the Interior, says COVID-19 is a real threat to national security and called for effective collaboration among security officials to use innovative ways to combat the pandemic.
“The Covid-19 pandemic is a threat to national security and must be dealt with as such,” he said.
“Events around the world have clearly shown that no single country or institution has been able to tackle the devastating pandemic alone.”
Mr Dery said this during the opening ceremony of Ghana Immigration Service (GIS) three-day Management and Regional Commanders Retreat in the Eastern Regional capital, Koforidua.
He said although the Government had built a strong synergy of interagency approach and collaborative effort among the security services, it was important to device new ways of fighting the pandemic.
Following the outbreak of COVID-19 in March 2020, Ghana has taken several steps, including lockdown and formation of “Operation COVID-19 Safety Team” made up of various security personnel to fight the pandemic.
That notwithstanding, the Minister said: “We cannot rest on our oars, we must intensify our efforts and continually think of innovative ways to ensure that our dear nation remains secured.”
The GIS Management and Regional Commanders retreat is an annual event aimed to discuss ways of detecting, preventing and deterring illegal movements around Ghana’s borders.
The 2021 event, which was organised on the theme: “Responding to Evolving National Security Threat in the Era of COVID-19,” had several top management and staff of GIS, including Chief Director of the Ministry of Interior, Mr Isaac Ampaw Gyasi, attending.
Mr Dery said COVID-19 had crippled the economies of many nations, including Ghana and killed several people.
The plague triggered some common strategies adopted around the world like enforcement of lockdowns, closure of borders and ports, boosting of medical logistics and the recent introduction of vaccination to mitigate its impacts.
Ghana had its Airport reopened and strict medical protocols put in place requiring all travelling passengers to provide negative COVID-19 test results within the last 72 hours and also undergo tests on arrival.
“This is one of the key strategies to help prevent the importation and the resultant spread of the deadly COVID in the country,” he said, stressing that Ghanaians must intensify their efforts and continually think of innovative ways to keep the nation secured.
The GIS is noted for its immense efforts in mass contact tracing, securing Ghana’s borders during crucial times and maintenance of law and order within.
“Despite their contributions, the country expects more from them,” Mr Dery said, and commended the Service for restructuring its operations, redesigning the regional organogram, and reviewing its 2018-2022 Strategic Plan.
“These are some of the needed strategies to overcome our current national security challenges,” he added.
“There’s the need for the GIS to change its organisational structure or organogram in times like this, it should reflect and institutionalise solutions.”
Mr Dery said GIS was also looking at setting up a Department of Health to help health officers within the Border Management Department to prevent the importation of infectious diseases through humans, plants and animals into Ghana.
“This is very good, looking at the context of the COVID-19 experience,” he said.
The Minister assured GIS of government’s readiness to guarantee maximum support by providing personnel with the needed equipment and logistics to secure the borders and provide optimum security.
The Municipal Chief Executive (MCE) for New Juaben South, Mr Isaac Ampaw Gyasi, said GIS was faced with a myriad of challenges such as insufficient logistics, financial constraints, and the implementation of ECOWAS protocols on the free movement of persons, goods and services.
He was hopeful that the retreat would come up with strategies to help solve migration management and national security issues.
Mr Kwame Asuah Takyi, the Comptroller General of GIS, mentioned the need for stakeholders to work together and share relevant information for border protection.
He called for effective collaboration with other security agencies and enhanced capacity building on border management.
Mr Takyi said the meeting aimed at finding ways of dealing with undesirable foreign elements staying illegally in Ghana, and preventing irregular migration along the country’s borders.
The threat emanating from the borders following the COVID-19 outbreak, he said, required a close alliance with other actors to ensure effective border security.