President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has announced the easing of coronavirus restrictions that would enable the partial reopening of some sectors of the economy from June 5, 2020.
However, restrictions placed over the past eleven weeks on certain public gatherings, including sporting events, nightclubs, cinemas, drinking spots, bars, beaches, festivals, funerals, political rallies and large religious gatherings such as crusades, pilgrimages and conventions have been stayed until July 31, 2020.
Also, the country’s air, land and sea border remains closed to human traffic until further notice. But Ghanaians stranded abroad would be evacuated back under “a special dispensation,” and will undergo the mandatory quarantine and safety protocols.
In a televised address Sunday to give an update on measures to curb the spread of the virus, the President outlined a phased process for safely easing restrictions in a select list of public gathering, based on the risk profile, socio-economic impact and the capacity of the country to enforce and respond to a spike in infections.
Those measures, he said, were the outcome of two weeks of consultations with relevant stakeholders, who agreed, based on the analysis of data, that a strategic, controlled, progressive, safe easing of restrictions to return the country to normalcy be rolled out.
Thus, as the first stage of easing the restrictions, religious services are to commence with 25 per cent attendance, and with a maximum of100 congregants worshipping at a time in church or at the mosque.
In addition, religious gatherings are not permitted to go beyond one hour, and congregants are required to maintain a mandatory one metre rule of social distancing, wearing of mask at all material times and keeping a register of names and contact details of all worshippers.
Also, religious institutions that are desirous of opening their premises to their members, such as churches, mosques and others, must provide hand washing facilities, disinfect, fumigate and put in place the requisite logistics needed to guarantee safe opening and operation.
“They must work with the designated, regulatory bodies and undertake test runs of the protocols I have outlined. I would appeal to them, in the case of Christians, on the first Sunday of re-opening, i.e. 7th June, in the case of the Adventists, Saturday, 6th June, and in the case of Muslims, on the first Friday, i.e. Ṣalāt al-Jumuʿah on 5th June, to dedicate their worship to prayers for the nation in these challenging times,” the President said, saying that specific guidelines for safe reopening of churches and mosque would be outlined in detail by Monday, June 1, 2020.
President Akufo-Addo also indicated that schools would be reopened for final year junior high, senior high and university students to resume classes ahead of the conduct of their respective exit examinations.
He said final year university students are to report to their universities on June 15, 2020, whilst final year senior high school (SHS3) students, together with SHS 2 Gold Track students were to go back to school on June 22, 2020.
The President indicated that final year junior high school students were to report back to school on June 29, 2020.
However JHS class size is limited to 30 students, a maximum of 25 students for the SHS, while university lectures are to take place with half class sizes.
The President further announced that all final year students of educational and training institutions, which are being managed by Ministries other than the Education Ministry, were to return to school on June 15, 2020 to complete their exit examinations.
He was emphatic that before the opening of schools and universities, the Ministry of Education, and the heads of public and private educational institutions, should fumigate and disinfect their institutions, disclosing that the ministry would provide students, teachers, and non- teaching staff with re-usable face masks.
But all other educational facilities, private and public, for non-final year students, will remain closed till further notice.
The President announced also that private burials could continue to be perfomed but with a maximum of 100 persons.
And restaurants, providing seated services, could operate under appropriate social distancing arrangements and hygiene protocols.
“Individual, non-contact sports can go ahead. Conferences, workshops, weddings, and political activities, except rallies, can now take place, but with limited numbers not exceeding one hundred persons present, with the appropriate social distancing and hygiene protocols,” he stated.
President Akufo-Addo also exempted market places, work places, public transport, and constitutional and statutory bodies such as the Electoral Commission, the National Commission for Civic Education and the National Identification Authority from the restrictions.
Cautioning however that their activities must be conducted in accordance with social distancing and the necessary hygiene and safety protocols, he stated that regulatory agencies would undertake random checks to ensure conformity with the set rules, and the security services would be tasked to enforce them.
“Should any institution fail to adhere to these directives, its activity will be immediately prohibited, and relevant sanctions applied,” he added.
President Akufo-Addo called on Ghanaians to remain vigilant, respect the enhanced social hygiene and distancing protocols as the country is opened through a phased process.
“Fellow Ghanaians, now, more than ever, we must adhere to enhanced personal hygiene and social distancing protocols, wash our hands with soap under running water, refrain from shaking hands, and wear our masks whenever we leave our homes.
“It is said that with greater freedom comes greater responsibility…We cannot afford to let our guard down, and ruin the successes we have chalked over this period,” he said.
Ghana’s Coronavirus count stands at 8,070 positive cases, with 2,947 recoveries, 36 deaths, with 13 persons critically ill and one person on a ventilator.