President ties airport re-opening to COVID-19 testing capacity

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Source: Business 24

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo says the ability of port health officials to test all passengers on scheduled international flights servicing the Kotoka International Airport (KIA) will inform the decision to reopen the airport by September 1, 2020.

In his 15th address to the nation on measures taken against the spread of the coronavirus, he said aviation sector stakeholders and port health officials have been working to develop modalities for reopening of the airport to commercial flights.

“I know many still ask when our borders, especially our international airport, Kotoka International Airport, will be opened. Under my instruction, the Ministry of Aviation, the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority and the Ghana Airports Company Limited have been working, with the Ministry of Health and its agencies, to ascertain our readiness to reopen our airport.

“I want to ensure that we are in a position to test every single passenger that arrives in the country to avoid the spread of the virus. The outcome of that exercise will show us the way and determine when we can reopen our border by air. I am hoping that, by God’s grace, we will be ready to do so by 1st September,” President Akufo-Addo said.

The country’s land, sea and air borders were closed in March as part of a raft of measures to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. President Akufo-Addo further announced in his Sunday address that, with 42,532 cases, 40,362 recoveries and 231 deaths recorded so far, the borders will remain closed.

“Until further notice, our borders, by air, land and sea, remain closed to human traffic. For Ghanaian residents stranded abroad, special dispensation will continue to be given for their evacuation back to Ghana, where they will be subjected to the mandatory quarantine and safety protocols.”

Modalities for airport re-opening

Business24 checks have revealed extensive investment in safety kits and equipment at the main international terminal at KIA, Terminal 3, in readiness for the eventual re-opening of the facility for scheduled passenger fights.

Glass and plastic screens have also been mounted on check-in and profiling counters to serve as a barrier between staff and passengers. Disinfection stations have been created at the entrance and within the terminal for use of all passengers.

The above notwithstanding, a major challenge is the approach to adopt in terms of pre-arrival COVID-19 testing as well as the quarantine approach—home or hotel and how many days, and what to do about the peak arrival time of between 6:30pm and 10pm daily at KIA when most major airlines fly in large numbers.

The Aviation Minister, Joseph Kofi Adda, told Business24 that best practices in countries which have reopened their airports and have been able to contain the COVID-19 spread will be examined for useful lessons.

In Africa, as part of its COVID-19 protocols, Ethiopia requires passengers to have a medical certificate with a negative coronavirus (COVID-19) RTPCR test result issued at most five days before arrival, starting from the time the sample is given.

Passengers are then subjected to self-isolation for 14 days. Passengers without coronavirus (COVID-19) arriving in Ethiopia are subject to medical screening and quarantine for 14 days—the first seven days at a government-designated facility, at the traveller’s own expense, and the remaining seven at home, self-isolated.

Egypt requires mandatory use of masks for passengers throughout a flight, social distancing during embarkation and disembarkation, and a declaration form to be filled at origin.

Passengers with 38-degree or above temperature, or suffering from any respiratory symptoms, are not permitted to fly to Egypt. As part of their protocol, transit passengers are not be permitted to disembark without authorisation.

Rwanda, which also reopened its international airport for commercial flights effective August 1, 2020, requires all passengers, including transit passengers, to show proof of a COVID-19 RT-PCR negative test result from a certified laboratory—a laboratory authorised to conduct the test in the country of port of commencement—within 72 hours of arriving in Rwanda.

The port health authorities in Kigali further conduct a second PCR test upon arrival with results delivered within 24 hours, during which time passengers remain in designated hotels at their own cost. The authorities also require a COVID-19 passenger information form to be completed and sent to a designated email address prior to boarding.

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