Ghanaian President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has eased the ban on social gatherings which was imposed as one of the measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus in the country.
Akufo-Addo, who was speaking in a televised address on Sunday, said the country had conducted 218,425 Covid-19 tests thus far.
There are 8,070 positive cases in the country, 2,947 people have recovered and 36 have died.
“Our hospitalisation and death rates have been, persistently, very low, some of the lowest in Africa and in the world. The Ghanaian people are not dying of the virus in the hundreds and thousands that were earlier anticipated and as is being seen on a daily basis in some other countries,” he said.
Therefore, he said, on Friday, June 5, stage one of the process of easing restrictions would begin in the country.
“An abridged format for religious services can commence. Twenty-five percent attendance, with a maximum number of 100 congregants, can worship at a time in church or at the mosque, with a mandatory one-metre rule of social distancing between congregants,” he announced.
Each religious service will be allowed to run for a maximum of one hour. The wearing of masks will be mandatory and handwashing facilities and sanitisier must be provided, in addition to which a register of names and contact details of all worshippers must be kept.
Religious institutions are also required to disinfect and fumigate their premises and put other measures in place to guarantee safe operation. They must work with the designated regulatory bodies and undertake test runs of the protocols put in place by the president.
“I would appeal to them, in the case of Christians, on the first Sunday of reopening, on June 7, in the case of the Adventists, Saturday, June 6, and in the case of Muslims, on the first Friday, Ṣalāt al-Jumuʿah on June 5, to dedicate their worship to prayers for the nation in these challenging times,” Akufo-Addo said.
The president announced further relaxations of the ban.
A maximum of 100 people will be allowed at private burials. Similarly, conferences, workshops, weddings and political activities – except rallies – will be allowed but with numbers not exceeding 100 people and provided physical distancing and hygiene protocols are observed. Individual non-contact sports will also be permitted.
Marketplaces, workplaces and public transport may operate provided physical distancing and hygiene protocols are followed.
Constitutional and statutory bodies such as the electoral commission, the National Commission for Civic Education and the National Identification Authority will be allowed to resume operations, again in accordance with measures to prevent the spread of the virus.
Akufo-Addo said regulatory agencies will undertake random checks to ensure conformity with the rule on public gatherings and the security services will enforce them.
“Should any institution fail to adhere to these directives, its activity will be immediately prohibited and relevant sanctions applied,” he warned.
He also said that sporting events, festivals, funerals, political rallies and large religious gatherings such as crusades, pilgrimages and conventions will remain suspended for the time being. Nightclubs, cinemas, drinking spots, bars and beaches remain off-limits.
While travel by air, land and sea remains closed, the president has given permission for Ghanaian residents stranded abroad to be evacuated back home, where they will be put in mandatory quarantine while other safety protocols are followed.
“Fellow Ghanaians, it is said that with greater freedom comes greater responsibility. The introduction of this phased opening up of our country means that each and every one of us must continue to remain vigilant, and respect the enhanced hygiene and social distancing protocols that have become part and parcel of our daily routine over the last three months.
“We cannot afford to let our guard down and ruin the successes we have chalked up over this period,” he said.
-ANA; Editing by Yaron Blecher