PRESENTATION BY HE JOHN DRAMANI MAHAMA ON THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC
Good morning my fellow citizens, and welcome to yet another edition of JohnMahamaLIVE.
Ghana now faces a very serious public health emergency caused by the novel coronavirus. We can all see the evidence from other countries- China, Iran, Italy, Spain and others- about how significant the threat of this virus is.
It is a global pandemic, and experts say it is likely to infect very large numbers of people. Most will only suffer mild symptoms. But, sadly, the virus is especially dangerous for the elderly and those with existing health problems.
Last night the President of Ghana announced a number of measures as a response to the threat. I acknowledge the scale of the challenge faced by all those in charge of our public health who have to take on the responsibility of dealing with this crisis appropriately. The measures include limiting travel, cancelling public gatherings, closing schools and universities, guidelines for enhanced hygiene procedures, the use of hand sanitizers, soap and running water, and following the prescribed social distancing measures.
In keeping with this advice, and to lead by example, I have temporarily suspended my SpeakOut tour across the country while we review procedures and put in place measures to minimize any risk of transmission during this period. We will keep the regions updated on developments.
The virus outbreak is a national issue and we really are all in this together. My party and I will play our role in supporting national efforts to mitigate the threat and to support our people through this crisis. But let’s face the facts. Our public healthcare service is already under strain and the coming weeks and months are going to be challenging.
I call on the government to make every necessary investment now to support their efforts. We need to ensure a supply of medical equipment such as ventilators for treatment of the vulnerable and personal protective equipment for our health care professionals.
We need a plan for the testing of the many thousands of people who will be turning to the healthcare system for help. I call on the government to publish a comprehensive plan on how it intends to deal with this emergency around the country.
Furthermore, I give my word to the people of Ghana that as the Minority and voice of the voiceless, we will hold the government to account on these issues. We will be supportive of the measures and actions being taken by government, while remaining vigilant in ensuring that the public is adequately protected. This is not a time for words. It is a time for action.
What the government did not address is the wide-reaching economic impact of the pandemic. We have seen governments around the world make bold moves to protect their economies and we should expect the Government of Ghana to respond rapidly to this challenge.
I call on the government to publish its plans to protect the economy including the possibility of a statement to Parliament on the expected impact on our economy of the disruptions of the COVID-19 on global supply chains and international travel.
A comprehensive budget review to Parliament may be necessary subsequently. The virus is not only an Accra or Tema problem. As we have noticed, one of the cases was found in Obuasi. Government must therefore immediately ensure the provision of Isolation Centres in all regions of the country. An identified case, kilometres from Accra, must not be transported to Accra for isolation and/ or treatment.
The availability of the regional isolation centres, together with adequate testing kits, and more than enough PPEs will be an encouragement to the medical personnel currently sacrificing a lot to support the ongoing efforts.
We must also provide adequate assurance to our frontline health workers of their protection. An insurance package for health workers who may become severely infected in the line of duty, will be a good start.
During the Ebola crisis, I had experience in working with our partners in ECOWAS and the UN in addressing the Ebola threat. ECOWAS must now put in place common enforceable protocols to deal with the coronavirus and the related issues. ECOWAS health and other ministers and their advisors must hold a teleconference, as a matter of urgency, to review the sub-regional actions.
I recommend to the government the lessons of our brothers in Libera and Sierra Leone during the Ebola epidemic a few years ago. Misinformation and mistrust are our enemies in this fight. A pandemic of fear can only be prevented if the relevant authorities prove themselves to be transparent and trustworthy by telling the truth and by telling it often.
Clear communication with the public is critical, but the Ministry of Health must also take steps to safeguard the public against false information and fake cures on social media and elsewhere.
I have instructed my communications team and my public health advisors to support efforts by the Ghana Health Service and the Ministry of Health. I have asked all former appointees of my administration who assisted in our readiness efforts during the Ebola epidemic to aid the government in any way they can, if requested to do so. The virus is an enemy to all Ghanaians and the call to duty in the fight against it rises above partisanship and politics.
To our frontline healthcare workers, a grateful nation salutes your efforts, your dedication and your resolve. Your country is behind you and we are relying on your courage and competence to see us through this difficult time.
We ask for God’s protection for you in this hour of crisis, and we will continue to pray for your success in our mosques, in our churches and in our homes. Now is the time for all of us to take care of ourselves and of each other. And let us remember that the measure of our nation’s greatness is in moments of crisis such as this is how we rise to challenge.
I call on each of us to take care of ourselves and of each other. And remember that the measure of our nation’s greatness in a moment of crisis such as this is how the least among us will ultimately fare.
Please remember the Ghana Health Service guidelines and the emergency numbers always. You must make contact immediately you observe anything disturbing or any symptoms.
I commit you all to the goodness and grace of God and remain hopeful that we will be successful in containing and eliminating this virus from our shores.
Thank you, and may God bless us all.