“I have sorely missed going to church,” he said in his 14th national address since the Covid-19 pandemic started in March, adding that other Ghanaians from the various faiths too do miss the congregational prayer sessions of the spiritual facilities as a result of the restriction of the number of persons who can enter churches and mosques.
For Christians and Moslems, the President announced that in consultation with health experts and religious leaders, he has lifted the restrictions on church and mosque-going as well as operations of open drinking bars.
The President commended religious leaders for ensuring compliance and adherence to the safety protocols for the past seven weeks since churches and mosques were opened partially with 25 per cent occupancy or up to one hundred congregants over time duration of up to one hour per service.
That, according to him, prevented any known outbreaks since they restarted their services.
Open For All
From 1st August 2020, the restrictions on the number of congregants worshipping at a time in church will be lifted, with the length of worship extended from one (1) to two (2) hours per service, he told Ghanaians.
“Church leaders, who are desirous of implementing this enhanced easing directive, must ensure that congregants wear face masks at all times, and the one (1) metre social distancing rule is scrupulously applied,” he added.
“These same guidelines apply to worship in our mosques. With greater numbers of congregants likely to return for worship, I would, respectfully, ask the religious leaders to pay even greater attention to the fresh air ventilation of their premises, rather than relying on the use of air conditioners,” he insisted.
In consultation with the Ghana Tourism Authority and the health experts, the President also announced the reopening of tourist sites and attractions for them to begin to receive visitors and allow for open air drinking spots (bars) to function.
He however said, “The management of these facilities are tasked to enforce enhanced hygiene and social distancing protocols.”
Beaches, pubs, cinemas and nightclubs, however, remain closed until further notice.
Ghana’s female Under-20 and Under-17 national football teams have been given the clearance to go into their respective training camps to begin preparations towards their FIFA and CAF-sanctioned international matches, which begin in September.
Whilst in training, the playing, technical and management teams have been asked to strictly observe all the protocols issued by government, CAF and FIFA against Covid-19.
All other team and contact sports, and competitive sporting events, however, remain suspended till further notice.
Trotro & Taxi
Besides, President Akufo-Addo, in consultation with the Ministries of Transport and Aviation, and the leadership of transport operators decided to lift the restrictions in the transport sector, and allow for full loads of passengers on domestic flights, taxis, trotros and buses.
Meanwhile, the wearing of masks on vehicles and aircraft, and the maintenance of enhanced hygiene protocols remain mandatory, while private burials, still, with a maximum of one hundred (100) persons, can continue to be performed.
However, Ghana’s borders, by air, land and sea, remain closed until further notice for human traffic.
Given that there are Ghanaian residents stranded abroad, the President said, “Special dispensation will continue to be given for the evacuation of our nationals and residents back to Ghana, where they will be subjected to the mandatory quarantine and safety protocols.”
Government continues to engage with the stakeholders in the educational sector to determine the conditions for the future reopening of schools, after the current examinations are concluded by mid-September.
Government through the Coronavirus Alleviation Programme Business Support Scheme is disbursing six hundred million cedis (GH¢600 million) to support micro, small and medium scale enterprises, which have been affected by the economic downturn caused by the pandemic.
Some of these incentive packages, including the free water and electricity, have been extended for the next three months as well as those for health workers by another three (3) months, i.e. July, August and September.
The President also intends to have it reviewed at the end of the period, saying “government is also extending free electricity supply to lifeline tariff customers until the end of the year.”
Government has also reduced the Communication Service Tax from 9% to 5%, effective September 2020.
The President said “I assure you that, under my watch as President of the Republic, government will continue to work to create a diversified, transformed economy, fashion a conducive business climate that will deliver development, progress and prosperity for all Ghanaians. This is my solemn pledge to you.”