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COVID-19: KIA records 387 cases in Dec. amidst fears over new strain

The Kotoka International Airport recorded 712 positive COVID-19 cases as of New Year Day—January 1.

This was after the reopening of the country’s only international airport on September 1, 2020.

In December alone, 387 travellers who entered the country through the KIA tested positive for COVID-19 following a mandatory test requirement being enforced by the authorities, President Nana Akufo-Addo announced during his latest COVID-19 update.

In all, 118,27 tests were conducted among international arrivals at the Kotoka International Airport.

The President said the government was concerned that the country’s positivity rate among international travellers had risen from 0.26% in September to 0.93% in December.

When KIA reopened four months ago, the government introduced a strict testing regime– a two-tier testing system – which required that all passengers arriving at Kotoka must have a negative PCR test result upon their arrival in Ghana.

The test should have been conducted not more than seventy-two (72) hours before the scheduled departure from the country of origin.

In addition to this, all passengers were to be subjected to a mandatory COVID test on arrival.

But with the numbers at the airport increasing despite the strict entry requirements while global concerns grow over a new strain of coronavirus identified in the United Kingdom, the President said the “developments call for the strengthening of the existing protocols to prevent the spread of the disease in Ghana, in light of the new variant of the virus.”

Aljazeera reported that the new variant, which has been named VUI-202012/01 (the first Variant Under Investigation in December 2020), is thought to have first occurred in mid-September in the country’s southeast, in the capital London or the county of Kent.

Susan Hopkins of Public Health England said the agency notified the UK government on December 18 when modelling revealed the full seriousness of the new strain. The UK submitted its findings to the World Health Organization the same day.

Since then it spread quickly in the southeast, becoming the dominant form of the virus there.

In London, 62 per cent of cases were due to the new variant in the week of December 9—an astronomical rise from the 28 per cent three weeks earlier.

Faced with this rapid development, the UK government enforced stricter lockdown measures over the Christmas period.

Already countries including Spain, India and Japan have reported recording the new strain of the virus from their citizens returning from the UK.

With all those trends in mind, the President said additional measures were being added to the existing guidelines on International Travel for COVID-19, in Ghana:

  • All arriving passengers who test positive for COVID-19, asymptomatic or not, will undergo mandatory isolation and treatment at a designated health facility or isolation centre. The isolation will be for a period of seven (7) days at the cost of Government. However, the final discharge of cases will be based on existing case management guidelines and protocols;
  • All passengers in isolation will undergo a repeat COVID-19 test within twenty-four (24) hours of arrival, with the cost also borne by Government. This test will also include genomic sequencing for COVID-19, and
  • All passengers who test negative for COVID-19 will be required to adhere continuously to COVID-19 safety protocols, and will receive regular information on COVID-19 within five (5) days of arrival in Ghana.

“I want to assure all Ghanaians that the testing regime in place at Kotoka is amongst the strictest in the world, and, as certified by the Food and Drugs Authority, it is capable of detecting this new variant of COVID-19, which is plaguing other nations around the world,” the President said.

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