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Thursday, January 20, 2022

Ban travelers from high risk countries – NDC MPs demand

KIA is the only official entry point into the country with all borders shutKIA is the only official entry point into the country with all borders shut

Opposition MPs in Ghana’s Parliament are pushing for tightened restrictions at the Kotoka International Airport as COVID-19 cases surge among travellers in recent times.

The MPs are also questioning the authenticity of PCR test results presented by travellers coming into the country following the development.

Aside from this, the caucus believes the alarming situation is not only indicative of the non-enforcement of the COVID-19 safety protocols for the travellers but also the country’s porous immigration measures at the airport.

The Minority is raising these issues on the heels of the alert issued by Frontiers Health Services – managers of Ghana’s COVID-19 airport testing programme over the weekend.

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Frontiers Health Services raised concerns of the seeming rise in the number of persons with COVID-19 entering the country.

“This clearly raises three pertinent issues. The first has to do with the authenticity of the PCR test results carried by infected travellers coming into the country, second, the safety protocols instituted at the various airports’ travellers may have used before arriving in the country and third our own measures to ensure the safety of immigration and other officials working at KIA”, it said in a statement.

To reverse the trend, the Minority is asking health officials to immediately consider the imposition of restrictions on arrivals from countries with high infection rates.

“The government should also consider a careful examination of the data and where necessary impose travel restrictions from regions that have travellers presenting fake or poor test results.”

“Government should also consider travel restrictions on countries currently experiencing high COVID-19 infection rates to reduce the possibility of importing COVID-19 infections into the country. Some countries have already implemented these measures and Ghana should also consider doing same”, the statement added.

Frontiers Health Services said it recorded the highest daily number of positive COVID-19 cases at the airport on Saturday, April 24, 2021.

Prior to that, the highest number was on Wednesday, April 21, 2021.

According to the company, the rate of positive cases being recorded at the airport in recent times is “unprecedented.”

Read the Minority’s full statement below:

25/04/2021

MINORITY IN PARLIAMENT’S PRESS STATEMENT ON THE INFLUX OF POSITIVE COVID-19 CASES AT THE KOTOKA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT.

Our attention has been drawn to the alarming increase of positive COVID-19 cases arriving in the country over the past week at the Kotoka International Airport. This news is alarming since we all know that our current struggles with COVID-19 started with two index patients coming through the same airport on the 12th of March last year.

Since then, several protocols have been instituted to reduce the probability of infections and keep Ghanaians safe. Key amongst them is the travel guideline which includes two compulsory COVID-19 tests – a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test at the country of origin and a $150 antigen test on arrival at the Kotoka International airport – before travelers are allowed into the country.

However, information we have gathered so far indicates that on the 24th of April an all-time high of 75 travelers tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 at the airport. This coming as a 67% jump on the previous all-time high of 45 cases recorded on the 21st of April last week, shows an exponential upward trajectory in terms of the positivity rate amongst travelers arriving at Kotoka.

This clearly raises three pertinent issues. The first has to do with the authenticity of the PCR test results carried by infected travelers coming into the country, second the safety protocols instituted at the various airports travelers may have used before arriving in the country and third our own measures to ensure the safety of immigration and other officials working at KIA.

Government must double its efforts to address these issues. First a determination must be made on how so many travelers are able to pass through the first screen procedure of a PCR test at their country of origin and land in Ghana having a COVID infection. This may indicate either poor tests or fake results.

And in that regard it is encouraging, although late, that government has issued a directive to have all PCR test results of arriving travelers digitally verified to reduce the probability of travelers arriving with fake COVID-19 test certificates. But government should also consider a careful examination of the data and where necessary impose travel restrictions from regions that have travelers presenting fake or poor test results.

Government should also consider travel restrictions on countries currently experiencing high COVID-19 infection rates to reduce the possibility of importing COVID-19 infections into the country. Some countries have already implemented these measures and Ghana should also consider doing same.

Ghanaians have endured many losses in terms of lives, resources, lost opportunities with the economy taking a hit resulting in one of its lowest growth rates since the inception of the 4th republic. Restrictions on movement; the organization of social events such as funerals, weddings and parties; and the requirement to wear personal protective equipment such as nose masks and face shields in public places.

After all these sacrifices, the current situation at the airport may be heralding a disaster of unimaginable proportions if not addressed. It is therefore incumbent on government to take its responsibility at the airport more seriously and as a matter of urgency, implement enhanced measures to better control the importation of COVID cases.

Thank you.

Kwabena Mintah Akandoh (MP)

(Ranking Member on the Health Committee of Parliament & MP for Juaboso).

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