Ghana is implementing some of the strictest Covid travel rules in the world, prohibiting any adult who has not been vaccinated from flying in beginning Monday.
Self-isolation is not an option
Ghanaian citizens and residents abroad are exempt for up to two weeks, but must be vaccinated upon arrival at the airport.
Authorities are concerned about an increase in infections during the holiday season.
Many other countries, including members of the European Union and the United States, have avoided an outright blanket ban on unvaccinated arrivals.
Since the start of the pandemic, Ghana’s land and sea borders have been closed to passenger traffic.
Along with the new measures, Ghanaian authorities will continue to require that all arrivals have a negative PCR test.
All Ghanaians flying out of the country must also be fully vaccinated.
This means that a Ghanaian national who is not currently immunized but receives a jab at the airport would have to wait until they received a second dose before flying out, unless they received one from Johnson and Johnson.
The World Health Organization (WHO) suggests an eight- to 12-week interval between the first and second doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine and a 21- to 28-day interval between the two Pfizer shots. For maximum immunity, the Moderna and Sputnik V also require two doses.
Vaccinations will be increased
Ghana’s authorities are concerned about a new wave of coronavirus infections among international visitors caused by the Omicron variant.
“The expected increase during the festive season necessitates immediate action to prevent a major surge in Covid-19 cases in Ghana,” said Patrick Kuma-Aboagye, the head of the Ghana Health Service, in a statement.
Over the last two weeks, he said, cases detected at Ghana’s main airport, Kotoka, accounted for roughly 60% of all new confirmed Covid infections in the country.
According to the BBC’s Favour Nunoo in Accra, the new travel guidelines have elicited mixed reactions among Ghanaians, with some in support and others arguing that people should have the right to choose.
With relatively few Covid cases in the country, many Ghanaians are unconcerned about the pandemic and thus have not felt compelled to get immunized, he adds.
Less than 10% of Ghana’s population is currently immunized, owing in part to a scarcity of vaccines in the country until recently.
Mr Kuma-Aboagye dismissed the fears of those who do not want to be stabbed in an interview with BBC Focus on Africa.
“If you decide to come, it means you want to be vaccinated,” he explained.
More than 90% of those admitted to hospitals in the previous wave were unvaccinated, he added.
The government intends to increase immunization efforts in January by making the vaccine mandatory for government employees, students, and health workers, according to the Reuters news agency.
Vaccine passports will also be required for entry into large crowd venues such as nightclubs and sports stadiums.
Ghana has reported 131,246 cases and 1,228 Covid fatalities since the outbreak began.