COVID-19: Ghana To Receive World’s First Doses Of Free Covax Vaccines

A file picture of the Ghanaian Flag
A file picture of the Ghanaian Flag


Ghana is to receive Wednesday the first shipment of Covid-19 vaccines from Covax, a global scheme to procure and distribute inoculations for free to poor countries, UNICEF and the World Health Organization said.

“We are pleased that Ghana has become the first country to receive the Covid-19 vaccines from the Covax facility,” UNICEF, which organised the shipment from Mumbai, said in a joint statement with the WHO.

It said the 600,000 doses are part of an initial tranche of deliveries of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine licensed to the Serum Institute of India, “which represent part of the first wave of Covid vaccines headed to several low and middle-income countries.”

The West African nation has recorded 80,759 Covid-19 cases and 582 deaths since the start of the pandemic. These figures are believed to fall short of the real toll as the number of tests is low.

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Frontline workers in Ghana are meant to be the first to receive the vaccine.

“In the days ahead, frontline workers will begin to receive vaccines,” UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said.

“The next phase in the fight against this disease can begin – the ramping up of the largest immunization campaign in history.”

Covax, led by Gavi the Vaccine Alliance, the WHO and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), said it would deliver two billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines to its members by the end of the year, including 2,412,000 doses to Ghana.

Schools in the country reopened in January after a 10-month closure, but large social gatherings are banned and land and sea borders have remained closed since March 2020.

Ghana’s economic growth is expected to plummet this year to its lowest in three decades, to 0.9 percent according to the International Monetary Fund, from 6.5 percent in 2019.


COVID-19: Schools In Ghana Reopen After 10-Month Closure

Students assemble on their school compound on the first day of the reopening of schools in Accra, Ghana, on January 18, 2021.  Nipah Dennis / AFP


For school teacher Prince Asante, going back to work on Monday was a huge relief after being out of a job for nearly a year, sidelined by the coronavirus pandemic.

“It was really difficult for me to survive,” Asante admitted.

“I became an Uber driver and on weekends I helped my wife with her small business selling clothes to survive. Things were not easy.”

The West African country introduced a lockdown and closed schools in March after the first confirmed COVID-19 case in sub-Saharan Africa was confirmed in neighbouring Nigeria and eventually spread to Ghana.

Students assemble on their school compound on the first day of the reopening of schools in Accra, Ghana, on January 18, 2021.  Nipah Dennis / AFP


In the coastal capital Accra, the lockdown was lifted in April but strict measures to help contain the spread of the virus remained in place.

After a 10-month closure, children wearing face masks flocked to the gates of Asante’s Christ Vision School with mini hand-sanitisers attached to their school bags.

“I’m happy to see my friends but I’m scared. We can’t do most of the things we used to do anymore. I doubt school will be fun like it used to be,” said primary school student Anita Gyampo.

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Despite mixed feelings, many are glad the days of homeschooling and virtual classes are over — for the time being.


Parents seek admission of their kids on the first day of school reopening in Accra, Ghana, on January 18, 2021.  Nipah Dennis / AFP


“We had virtual classes through Zoom but it wasn’t effective. Sometimes I waited for over 20 minutes without hearing or seeing anything on the screen,” secondary school student Andrews Lomotey said.

“My parents didn’t always have money to buy data for online class. Thank God I can now learn while taking safety precautions,” said another secondary school student, Emefa Dzakpata.

Schools and universities closed around the world but a report by UNESCO, Unicef and the World Bank published in October found that children’s education in countries like Ghana were more severely affected.

“Schoolchildren in low-and lower-middle income countries were the least likely to access remote learning, the least likely to be monitored on their learning loss, the most likely to have delays to their schools reopening and the most likely to attend schools with inadequate resources to ensure safe operations,” the UN children’s agency said in a statement.

In Ghana, COVID-19 cases are rising and some parents were hesitant about sending their children back to school.

“It’s of great concern to us… why free them now when cases are alarming? I won’t forgive this government if anything happens to my children,” said Priscilla Koomson, a mother of three.

“I wanted to keep them at home for three more weeks to gauge how things go, but I’m giving the government the benefit of the doubt.”

The tally of currently-infected people has nearly doubled in a month, to 1,924, according to Ghana’s Health Service. The overall figure of infections since the start of the pandemic is 58,000, but this is widely believed to be conservative as testing is low.

President Nana Akufo-Addo warned Sunday that Ghana may return to a partial lockdown if the situation continues to deteriorate.


Ghana Army Steps In To Quell Parliament Clash Ahead Of Swearing-In

Ghanaian soldiers are seen at the parliament of Ghana during a misunderstanding between members of parliament in Accra, Ghana on January 7, 2021. Nipah Dennis / AFP


Ghanaian soldiers intervened overnight to quell a clash between opposing parties in parliament ahead of the body’s swearing-in set for Thursday.

Chaotic scenes erupted after a ruling party deputy tried to seize the ballot box during the vote for parliament speaker. The ensuing clash lasted several hours until the army stepped in, with national television broadcasting the drama live.

“There was total breakdown of law and order,” said MP-elect Kwame Twumasi Ampofo of the opposition National Democratic Congress. “Looking at a member of parliament and a minister of state snatching ballot papers… was so shameful.”

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The new parliament will be virtually split down the middle between the two main parties, posing the risk of gridlock with key issues on the agenda including how to turn around an economy hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

President Nana Akufo-Addo, who narrowly won re-election in the December 7 vote, will also be sworn in on Thursday.

His New Patriotic Party lost 32 seats in the 275-member parliament.


Jonathan mourns Atta Mills’ death

President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday condoled with the government and people of Ghana over the death of their president, John Atta Mills.

In a press statement signed by the Special Adviser to the president of Media and Publicity, Reuben Abati, Mr Jonathan said he “received with shock and immense sadness news of the sudden death of President John Atta Mills of Ghana.”

The statement said that Mr Jonathan on behalf of himself, the government and people of Nigeria, “extends sincere condolences to late President Mill’s family as well as the government and people of Ghana.

“The President assures the people of Ghana of the sympathy and solidarity of the people of Nigeria as they mourn late President Mills who did his best during his tenure to carry forward the process of democratic consolidation and socio-economic development in Ghana.”

Mr Jonathan said that he expects that “the excellent relationship which existed between Nigeria and Ghana during President Mill’s tenure will continue to be strengthened under the new leadership in Ghana in the mutual interest of both countries.”

A statement from the Ghanian president’s office on Tuesday announced the death of President Mills

“It is with a heavy heart that we announce the sudden and untimely death of the president of the Republic of Ghana,” the statement said.

Mills died at the age of 68, a few hours after he fell ill and was rushed to a Military Hospital.