‘Vaccine Passport’ and its effect on international tourism(2)

More African countries register Russia's Sputnik Vaccine

Following Frontiers Services Limited’s reports of increasing cases of COVID-19 at Kotoka International Airport (KIA), Occupy Ghana issued a statement. They identified the following problems;

  1. Travellers arriving in the country from high-risk countries;
  2. Travellers arriving with fake PCR test results;
  3. Non-availability of quarantine facilities for large numbers of travellers;
  4. Hotels not willing to be used for quarantine purposes; and
  5. Some positive cases not willing to be isolated in GHS-designated isolation facilities.

The offered the following suggestions;

  1. As a matter of urgency, we must identify the high-risk countries and restrict travel to and from them. Citizens and residents of Ghana may be allowed entry, only if they test negative at KIA and are mandatorily quarantined for at least 10 days at their own cost;
  2. Provide incentives to hotels to accept passengers from high-risk countries for quarantine. Travellers must pay hotel quarantine bills in full, prior to travel;
  3. Without exception, all travellers who test positive must be sent to a GHS-designated isolation facility as per our protocols for further clinical assessment and treatment. A negative PCR test must be repeated after Day 5. The passenger may be de-isolated following 2 negative tests; and
  4. Prosecute travellers who are proven to have flown in with forged PCR results.

The African Centre for Health Policy Research and Analysis also added its voice calling on the government to investigate the hike in the number of COVID-19 cases recorded at the Kotoka International Airport (KIA).

This situation is if not handled majestically could derail any rebound happening soon. Ghana is seen and applauded for the way it handled the COVID-19 pandemic and how we managed to keep the number of infections low compared to many other tourist receiving countries. As we work towards a rebound for tourism globally and measures being put in place to accommodate the numerous tourists intending to travel this summer, it is very imperative that the situation at KIA is quickly resolved. If not, we can we sure tourist who intend visiting Ghana this summer may opt for different destinations. So far travel advise for Ghana remains a positive one. The following travel advise about Ghana was posted on the CNN website.

Ghana may be blessed with some of West Africa’s finest beaches, but it’s so much more than a place to sunbathe. Its coastal forts offer an unflinching insight into the slave trade which was run by the British from these shores. The rambling Kejetia Market, in Kumasi, in the southwest of the country, is said to be the largest in this part of the continent, selling everything from jewelry to footwear. In the north, Mole National Park is the ideal place to see some of Africa’s most famous animals, including elephants, hippos and warthogs.

Who can go

All visitors are now allowed into Ghana via Accra, as long as they have a negative test or undertake a second test on arrival at Kotoka International Airport.

What are the restrictions?

Unless they are Ghanaian residents who are returning to the country after having been away for one week or less, all passengers aged five and over must have proof of a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of departure and also undertake an additional antigen test on arrival.

This costs $50 per passenger for Ghanaians and citizens of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and $150 for everyone else, with results available within 30 minutes. Payment must be made online prior to boarding the flight to Ghana.

Ghanaian residents who have left Ghana for one week or less do not need to present a negative PCR test for departure, but still have to undertake the mandatory antigen test on arrival.

In April, Ghana began digital verification of Covid-19 test results, to combat the circulation of fake results.

Anyone testing positive on arrival will immediately be transferred to hospital for further assessment. Non-residents required to isolate in a government health facility must do so at their own cost, while for Ghanaians the cost will be covered by the state.

All passengers must complete an online health declaration form and may be asked to do so again on board before landing.

What’s the Covid situation?

On February 24, Ghana became the first country to receive Covid-19 vaccines through the World Health Organization’s COVAX program. A shipment of 600,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccines was delivered to Accra.

Ghana had registered 92,562 cases of Covid-19 and 779 deaths as of April 30.

Last year, the country was lauded for its response and the way it kept numbers down. The beginning of 2021 saw a sharp rise in Covid-19 infection rates, including new strains of the virus, but numbers have now dropped.

Many tourists will see this and gain the needed confidence in the country due to the reputation of CNN and for them publishing such positive information about Ghana, the confidence foreign travellers will have in the country could help speed up a quick recovery which is needed urgently as income from visiting tourist will aid the national economy. Employment numbers will also increase as those who were asked to come home will return providing the needed boost to hotels and other tourism related businesses.

Meanwhile measures are still being put in place towards the implementation of ‘vaccine passports’ which will ensure prevent situations such as what happened at KIA. The EU would like member states to adopt a single approach to travel and health certificates, but it’s unclear yet whether the Green pass will be adopted. It is reported that Greece and Cyprus have said they will accept UK holidaymakers who have been vaccinated this spring. They may not be willing to wait until the summer when the EU-wide scheme comes into place.

Will the Astrazeneca vaccine be accepted for European travel this summer? Yes.

The EU has said member states must accept those vaccines which have received EU approval – that includes the Astrazeneca vaccine. Countries may prevent travellers who have had the Sputnik or Sinopharm vaccines from entry. Those vaccines are not approved by EU regulators, or used in the UK. Therefore, with government plans of importing Sputnik vaccines, will the EU and UK just to mention a few see Ghana as a safe destination from COVID-19 once their preferred Astrazeneca vaccines is being changed to Sputnik? Some may argue that, government has no choice following the situation in India and the shortages of Astrazeneca Vaccine. And with the ‘Vaccine Passport’ going to be the blue print confirming one’s vaccination status, Sputnik may be the best alternative for now.  Your guess is as good as mine.

Photo: Philip GEBU

Philip Gebu is a Tourism Lecturer. He is the C.E.O of FoReal Destinations Ltd, a Tourism Destinations Management and Marketing Company based in Ghana and with partners in many other countries. Please contact Philip with your comments and suggestions. Write to [email protected] / [email protected]. Visit our website at www.forealdestinations.com or call or WhatsApp +233(0)244295901/0264295901.Visist our social media sites Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: FoReal Destinations.

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