Ghana to vaccinate returning travellers against COVID-19 on arrival

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Ghana will vaccinate returning citizens and residents against COVID-19 upon arrival at the airport from next Monday if they have not already received shots, its health service said, amid concerns over low take-up of vaccinations.

All Ghanaians leaving the country will also be required to show proof of vaccination, health service Director-General Patrick Kuma-Aboagye said in a statement, citing as reasons a rise in COVID-19 cases and detection of the Omicron variant.

Ghana has so far administered vaccines to cover roughly 5.7% of its population of 30 million, data compiled by Reuters showed.

Its newly announced vaccination requirements are among the strictest in Africa, where vaccine uptake has been slow due to lack of supply and logistical challenges.

“The current increase in cases, together with the detection of the Omicron variant among international arrivals and the expected increase during the festive season, calls for urgent actions to prevent a major surge in COVID-19 cases in Ghana,” Kuma-Aboagye said in his statement, released late on Thursday.

Ghana is holding a vaccination drive this month, and from January 22 the vaccine will become mandatory for targeted groups including government employees, health workers and students.

From January proof of vaccination will also be needed to access nightclubs, beaches, sports stadiums and restaurants.

Over the last two weeks, COVID-19 cases recorded at the Kotoka International Airport in the capital Accra accounted for about 60% of total infections in the country, said Kuma-Aboagye.

Data from the airport showed that people who tested positive were three times more likely to be unvaccinated, he said. Among 34 cases where the Omicron variant was detected, 75% of them were unvaccinated.

Ghana’s health service has recorded 131 246 cases and 1 228 deaths from COVID-19 since the pandemic began.