Seven cases of the Omicron variant have been established within the Ghanaian population, taking the total number of positive cases in the country to 41.
The Director-General of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr Patrick Kuma-Aboagye, speaking in a media interview on Sunday said the variant was detected after testing and sequencing of samples was conducted in 66 communities.
“The first 34 cases were from the Airport. At the time, we sequenced samples from about 66 communities and all came out negative, but, in the second batch of tests, we have detected seven more cases,” he said.
Failing to give specific areas where community spread was identified, the DG noted, however, that, the Delta variant of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) still led infection rates in the country.
Dr Kuma-Aboagye said it was in view of transmissibility of emerging variants that the Service was intensifying its vaccination campaign against COVID-19 this month to achieve herd immunity.
“240 cases of COV1D-19 were recorded in November this year compared to 168, same time last year and we now have an average of 20 positive cases a day. Meanwhile, almost 75 per cent of persons who tested positive at the Airport were unvaccinated and we need to be more cautious and proactive so that we don’t have a cascade of cases come January.”
The Director-General said about 6.5 million people have so far been vaccinated out of the targeted 20 million of the population projected by the end of the year.
“We have about 8 million vaccines in stock now and expecting about 11 million more in the coming days. So we have the vaccines, it is left with people availing themselves to take them and that is why this December, we are moving the vaccines to the people to get as many as possible vaccinated,” he said.
Dr Kuma-Aboagye justified the legality of Ghana’s impending vaccination mandate come January 2022, if people still failed to take their jabs, saying, “the Public Health Act mandates us to vaccinate in pandemic like this and when people refuse, there are sections that make you liable for a fine among others. If your so-called rights affect public health, we need drastic measures to protect the public and that is what we are seeking to do.”
He appealed to members of the public to be measured in merry-making activities during the Christmas festivities and stick to all COVID-19 safety protocols to avert another wave of the disease.
Meanwhile, the Ghana Airports Company Limited (GACL) has warned that effective midnight, December 14, 2021, airlines that bring unvaccinated passengers into the country would be surcharged $3,500 per passenger.
“Airlines that bring passengers to Kotoka International Airport who had not filled the health declaration form shall be surcharged $3,500 per passenger and passengers must not have symptoms suggestive of COVID-19 including body temperature >38°C,” excerpts of the statement issued yesterday said.
At least five million more Ghanaians are expected to be vaccinated this December in what government says is a renewed COVID-19 campaign to accelerate efforts at attaining herd immunity in the country.
Ghana now has 738 active COVID-19 cases with 22 in severe conditions and a death toll of 1, 243.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the omicron variant is now present in 57 countries across the globe.
BY ABIGAIL ANNOH