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Ghana shuts down parliament temporarily over Covid-19 outbreak

Ghana has suspended its parliament for three weeks due to a Covid-19 outbreak among Members of Parliament and staff.

“I have, in consultation with the leadership, decided that the sitting of the house be suspended for three weeks,” said the speaker of the house, Alban Bagbin, on Tuesday.

17 members of parliament and 151 staff and ancillary workers have been infected with the virus. Parliament will be adjourned from Wednesday until March 2 while the premises are disinfected and sanitized.

“During that period, honorable members are to comply with the strict Covid-19 protocols and regulations,” said Bagbin. He asked members and staff to get tested for the virus in two weeks.

Under previous Covid-19 restrictions announced on February 5, only one-third of members could sit in the chamber at any one time. The parliament organized for its members to be tested earlier this month, but some members declined, said Bagbin during a session on February 3.

The appointments committee has not started debating the President, Nana Akufo-Addo’s, ministerial nominees following December’s general election. Bagbin asked that by the end of the three weeks that the committee would have finished and submitted their reports to the house on the appointments.

The West African nation has recorded over 73,000 Covid-19 cases and 482 deaths, according to data from John Hopkins University.

Akufo-Addo announced new restrictions on January 31 which included a ban funerals, weddings, concerts, theatrical performances and parties.

Schools re-opened last month, but few cases linked to that policy decision have been reported, said Akufo-Addo in a speech on January 31.

“In effect, fellow Ghanaians, we have a lot of work to do in coming to grips with the disease,” he said in a speech. “Given that recent studies show that the UK and other new variants are being transmitted within the population, we should all understand that our current situation could get very dire if efforts are not made, both on the part of Government and by you, the citizenry, to help contain the virus.”

Ghana aims to vaccinate its entire population, initially targeting 20 million people, with the earliest vaccine available in March.

The country reopened to international flights on September 1 but land and sea borders remain closed.

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