National

First Ghanaian returnees arrive from Kuwait

Kuwait Airways

Some 263 Ghanaians have arrived in the country from Kuwait, in the first wave of evacuations of nationals stranded abroad as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Information Minister, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah told journalists on Friday, the passengers aboard the flight were deportees found to have been illegally residing in that country.

JoyNews is however learning the deportees are in the minority and that most of the passengers are stranded Ghanaians making their way home, including some government officials.

A statement issued by the Ministry of National Security clarified that the 263 are returnees.

The passengers aboard Kuwait Airways flight KU1511 touched down at the Kotoka International Airport at about 2:15pm Saturday.

It is the first such arrival of passengers since Ghana closed its borders on March 22, 2020 to halt the importation of coronavirus cases and according to a national security source, will be a test run for the airlifting of an estimated 3,000 nationals stranded abroad as a result of the closure of the country’s borders.

It also marks the easing of air border restrictions, even as government initiates a national dialogue on how the country can be gradually returned to some normalcy despite the pandemic.

Ghanaians including rapper, Sarkodie who were out of the country at the time the borders were closed have been appealing to government to facilitate charter flights to evacuate them as many airlines have suspended flights to most destinations.

https://twitter.com/sarkodie/status/1255948290014752769

Countries such as the US and UK have arranged similar flights for their nationals who were affected by the border closure and hundreds of such persons have returned home under special waivers granted by the government of Ghana.

National security sources tell JoyNews the repatriation flights for Ghanaians abroad are being arranged and that there could more evacuations in the next few weeks.

Codenamed OPERATION RETURN HOME, the exercise is being conducted by the Joint Task Force and aims to ensure the smooth reception, screening and quarantining of returnees.

Though the returnees from Kuwait are said to have all been screened for COVID-19, all of them will be sent into mandatory quarantine when they arrive on Saturday.

The Joint Task Force includes representatives from the National Security Council Secretariat, Ghana Immigration Service, Ghana Health Service as well as the police and military.

The closure of Ghana’s borders was to stop the further importation of coronavirus cases.

This however meant that many Ghanaians who had traveled out of the country at the time, could not make their way back.