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Hello and good morning.
Let me first of all welcome all of you who have joined us this morning from the comfort of your homes, in your offices, in your cars heading into town; or in the wards now, working to save our people and our motherland.
The social distancing protocols require that we reach you via the medium of live television and radio and also digitally. But let me thank my friends from the media who were able to join us here, physically, and help bring this short activity to you wherever you are. I have also been joined by a number of officials from the National Democratic Congress, the NDC COVID-19 Technical Team and my Office.
As has become my battle cry over the last few weeks, my brothers and sisters, WE ARE NOT IN NORMAL TIMES, AT ALL. So, please and please, if you have nothing essential doing outside of your home, please STAY HOME, observe the protocols of hand washing as frequently as you can.
Let’s disinfect commonly used surfaces as often as we can, while continuing to wash our hands, and using the alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
The COVID-19 pandemic and its outbreak in Ghana has brought out the very best in all of us. It has been heartwarming to see how political, religious and social differences have evaporated and replaced by a sense of unity and camaraderie in a bid to beat back this disease.
We have all with one accord, contributed our widow’s mite, donated what little we can mobilize and shown care to the needy in our society. We have rallied to a national call in ways that have not been seen in quite a while. Many are having to stay home, shut down their business – both big and small – despite the economic implications on the family and workforce.
Of course, I say thank you to our health workers across the length and breadth of the country for the role you continue to play towards defending this country and our people against the virus. I am deeply touched by the enthusiasm and the sacrifice of our health workers – and I am elated that my government’s heavy investments in health infrastructure is paying off today.
I, John Dramani Mahama, appreciate you all, and Ghanaians appreciate you all.
I must quickly add that it is not a good thing that health workers, across the country, still, do not have personal protective equipment. This is obviously because we did not plan early as a country and our importation of test kits was also late. Also the demand for test kits and PPEs have outstripped supply globally.
It is within that spirit that despite the shortage, we have managed to secure and procure a quantity of PPEs, which are behind me here for distribution to a number of health facilities.
Last Sunday, in response to the cries of health workers at the Greater Accra Regional Hospital (Ridge), I presented 100 PPEs together with other items and drinking water to them. It was our modest contribution to ensure that the health workers have the needed confidence to continue their sacrifice to safeguard the rest of us who are not victims to the virus, and also protect themselves.
This morning, I am handing over a total of 500 PPEs together with 500 gum boots valued at 300,000 Ghana Cedis to the COVID-Team to be presented to a number of health facilities, particularly, the Korle Bu and Tamale Teaching Hospitals.
In view of the situation in Korle Bu, in particular, and the threats from the health workers, in defence of their own protection, I have had to make some adjustments in the distribution formula, and we are currently looking around to secure an additional 150 PPEs, at a cost of 90,000 Ghana Cedis, to reach out to other facilities in the regions. That puts the total number of PPEs we will be handing over to 650 sets at a cost of 390,000 Ghana Cedis.
I make this modest contribution to the fight to rid our beloved country of this most insidious ailment. It is my hope that it goes some way to alleviate the plight of our brave frontline health workers. In the very near future, under a new NDC administration, we will consider an insurance package woven into the conditions of service of our health personnel.
It is with great humility that I note that the massive investments we made in health facilities during my tenure as President have become the mainstay of the response to the novel virus. This marks progress and demonstrates what vision and foresight can do in nation-building.
That notwithstanding, it has become clear, in an era of pandemics and infectious diseases, that a reactionary approach does not offer a sustainable path to protecting our people and economy from the harmful effects of such outbreaks.
A more proactive state of readiness must be put be in place going forward. No longer must it be the case that dangerous diseases like Ebola, SARS, MERS or COVID-19 gets to our shores before we scramble around to arrest their impact.
These diseases have unfortunately become serious threats to our survival and go beyond just the health of our people. They have adverse implications for our economy and our very way of life. In that regard, I wish to table the following proposals, which I believe will leave us better prepared and ready to take on any future eventuality especially pandemics like the COVID-19 case.
These proposals are a part of our manifesto, which we intend to launch later in the year, when we have collectively defeated this pandemic. It has become necessary now to make them public because of the current climate and in the hope that to the extent possible, they may be factored into ongoing efforts to combat COVID-19.
If there is any lesson to be drawn from the COVID -19 episode, it is the fact that we are not immune from pandemics that hitherto were deemed to be far removed from us. While we may have been spared outbreaks like Ebola, SARS, MERS and the like, we have been very much affected by COVID-19, which has proven extremely disruptive to our lives and holds the potential of having dire consequences for our economy.
The relative fragility of our health and social welfare systems makes us even more vulnerable to its fallouts. Our people stand to suffer tremendously if such diseases are allowed to take us by surprise. Even as we count the cost, it is imperative that we learn the lessons of today and act now to ensure that we are much better prepared, when, not if, the next pandemic rears its head.
To this end, I propose the immediate development of a National Infectious Disease Response Plan that clearly sets out the specific steps to be taken to prevent the entry of such diseases, quickly arrest them even if they do enter our shores at a very early stage and reduce their impact to the barest minimum.
We must establish another medical research centre with capacity like the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research in the Northern part of Ghana. We must expand the 37 military hospital, doubling the current bed size, and also build an Infectious Diseases Centre there to cater for the Southern sector to help with the management of cases like Ebola and COVID-19. A second and fully equipped National Infectious Diseases Centre should be built in the middle and Northern Sectors of the country.
As part of our national strategic medical stock, we must have such items as PPEs and other vital logistics in place well in advance of any outbreak. The current shortage, which has led to a global scramble for these items show that it is only the early bird that will catch the worm. We must always be prepared and not be caught off-guard again in such a situation.
A key plank to this strategy is to boost the capacity of our manufacturing firms to produce these items locally to reduce, if not eliminate our dependence on imports which can be unreliable in times like this.
While we are it, I want to urge government to expand the testing centres to include the Navrongo and Kintampo Research Centres, ensuring that Noguchi or KCCR supports them to test more people and on time.
In addition to some suggestions I made yesterday, I urge Government to also:
1. Move the deadlines for businesses to submit their SSNIT, Tax returns a few months back, due to many factors including depletion of manpower and difficulties with modalities of payment.
2. We need a proper trickling down economics to alleviate the plight of Ghanaians: Direct distribution- Buffer stock must step in to distribute food stuffs to deprived households in deprived communities, and Expand LEAP to cover many more poor households. Vitamin C, fruits and food supplements should also be distributed.
3. Government through the Ministry of Health must target vulnerable groups such as people with Cancer, Diabetes, Asthma, pregnant women and extend support to them (Hospitals have some data on them).
4. Reduce indirect taxes (zero rate tax on essential products such as sanitizers, wipes, toilet rolls, food for a while).
5.Insurance for frontline health workers and security personnel who are fighting COVID-19.
6.ECOWAS & AU- Need for partnerships and consensual efforts to manage borders, leverage on food production capabilities.
7. Negotiate with the Telcos to suppress their prices. Telcos can be assured of a free 6 months extension of licenses – some of which are to expire very soon).
Let’s Stay Home, respect Social Distancing protocols and wash our hands with soap under running water regularly.
We Will Win The Fight Against Coronavirus, Together!
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