Economy may not return to normality in 2021 – EIU


…as nationwide vaccination could take several years

The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) has cast doubt on the prospect of economic activities fully returning to normal shortly – citing probability of the country’s inability to achieve a nationwide roll-out of vaccines due to financial and logistical challenges.

Even though Ghana was the first country to receive the first 600,000 doses of the Oxford University-AstraZeneca (UK) vaccine through the COVAX facility, the EIU country report says government’s goal of getting 20 percent of the population vaccinated through this facility can possibly be achieved in the next 18 months.

And again, the report adds, logistical and financial challenges will constrain government to obtain vaccines from Russia and China for the remaining 80 percent of the population.

“Although its roll-out began in early March, Ghana will not return to normality in 2021 and is expected to obtain vaccines for only 20 percent of its population through the COVAX Facility in the next 18 months. Ministers have previously said that they are working to ensure the remaining 80 percent of the population will be able to receive a vaccine (without giving a time-frame).

“However, we believe that issues over the availability, cost and distribution of a vaccine will mean that a full national roll-out will take several years. The general population will start to be vaccinated from April 2022 (through COVAX). Outside of COVAX, China and Russia have also developed vaccines which could help Ghana. If government does procure some Russian or Chinese-made vaccines, ongoing logistical issues will remain a hindrance,” the report stated.

As of April 15, 2021, according to information from the Ghana Health Service (GHS), about 755,686 people had been vaccinated across the country. Currently, the number of people on record as having contracted the virus is 88,250 – with 1,334 active cases and 771 deaths in all.

After successfully rolling out the first phase of the vaccination programme, doubts remain as to whether the vaccines will arrive in time for those ready for their second jabs next week – as the vaccine-producing countries want to manufacture enough for their own populations before exporting the leftovers to other countries.

However, Head of the National Immunisation Programme at the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr. Kwame Amponsa-Achiano, has called for calm; saying the nation’s plan toward achieving herd-immunity by immunising at least 20 million people against COVID-19 by the end of this year is still on course despite supply challenges.

He further allayed fears that the inability to get second jabs at the stipulated time may render it ineffective, saying doses of the AstraZeneca vaccines can protect for at least 90 days.

“People should not be unnecessarily apprehensive. COVAX has a challenge, but COVAX is not the only avenue for vaccines. The nation is trying as much as possible to have negotiations with the manufacturers; and once that is successful, the programme will continue.”

The EIU report adds that government will maintain some restrictions for most of 2021, even as vaccines are slowly distributed, while the economy gradually recovers from ravages of the pandemic. It however maintains that a reimposition of nationwide restrictions is unlikely, unless there is a major surge in cases across the country – with smaller lockdowns likely to be imposed to counter localised outbreaks.

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