The Ministry of Communication has commenced the roll out of a comprehensive digital system to support the nation’s quest to open its economy up to the world.
The move, according to Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, the Communication Minister, is to ensure that the country has utmost control over travellers and keeps track of all movements in and out of potential hotspots across the country; and ultimately to make information and contact tracing easier in case of any incidence.
“Digital technology is now being added as the major third-leg of our COVID-19 response strategy, signalling our determination to restore every sector to as much normalcy as possible, while maintaining a firm grip on management of the pandemic,” she said in a statement.
“We are leveraging on existing digital infrastructure and applications in addition to novel systems to create a Digital Shield under the overarching policy framework – transforming COVID-19 from crisis to opportunity through technology. Government is working to ensure the safe restoration of all the country’s sectors, as well as the eventual seamless re-opening of regional borders,” she added.
To facilitate this endeavour, government intends to leverage its digital infrastructure to become a pioneer in implementing the African Union (AU) platform – Pan African BioSurveillance Application (PanaBIOS), in addition to the GH COVID-19 app which is available on both the App Store and Google Playstore to enable government monitor the compliance level of COVID-19 protocols.
The PanaBIOS system will help in identification and monitoring of various hotspots and high-risk events, with citizens expected to ‘check in and out of such locations or events’ through USSD short-code 769, the PanaBIOS web app (www.panabios.org) or the GHCOVID-19 tracker app on google play or AppStore.
This data will provide a record of citizens who have checked in and out of hotspots, and when they did so. The information will help determine when and where individuals very likely came into contact with potentially infected persons.
The statement added that the authorities will stay abreast of the evolving risk picture, and identify priority contacts to trace based on: the conjunction of test results data, hotspot congestion and human traffic-logging data. All potential hotspots such as hotels, churches, conference and exhibition venues will be educated on the necessity of compliance with the new directives for digitally logging all visitors.
There will also be the set-up of the PanaBIOS testing module in laboratories across Ghana, starting with the Greater Accra Region. This will enable the digitisation of test results and transfer of data through PanaBIOS to the Ghana Health Service Disease Surveillance Department. Such test results can subsequently be used for travel across the African region and eventually beyond.
“Individuals are also at liberty to share these secure, tamper-proof, test certificates with their workplaces, schools and other institutions as necessary to increase confidence and reduce panic. To test this model, returnees on repatriation flights shall commence the use of digital clearance forms generated on PanaBIOS.org to replace current manual and paper-based processes.
‘Quarantine spot-allocations, in hotels and elsewhere, shall also be managed from the same interface; and thus hotels participating in this process shall use the same PanaBIOS account that they use in conformity with the new conferencing/events congestion monitoring process.
“In line with emerging pre-travel health clearance rules, cargo crew and other embarking passengers from Ghana shall be required to undergo Coronavirus testing and electronically append their digital test results in the citizen version of the app for Port Health screening ahead of boarding and departure,” the statement added.
The ministry noted that digitisation of the yellow fever vaccination booklet in the 10 approved vaccination centres, starting with the Ridge Hospital OPD venue and the Manhyia venue in Kumasi, shall proceed. Through this method, vaccination records shall be electronically validated by Ghana Port Health officers.
“Wearable quarantine monitoring devices may also be introduced to facilitate effective monitoring and supervision of those undergoing self-quarantine, and protect health care workers and other critical staff from COVID hotspots
“These new digital services shall be delivered at no cost to citizens or related government agencies as a result of collaboration with technology companies, telecom operators and technical institutions. All citizens and organisations are hereby strongly encouraged to cooperate and comply to guarantee the safe reopening of Ghana to the rest of the world,” the minister announced.