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Ghana says its virus lockdown was untenable for economy

Finance Minister says lockdown impossible for the country due to its largely informal economy.
Image: Bloomberg

A 21-day lockdown of Ghana’s biggest cities became financially unbearable for most of the population, a concern that gave the government little choice when it lifted the restrictions last month, said Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta.

Ghana, which identified its first two coronavirus cases on March 12, was the first in sub-Saharan Africa to ease movement restrictions after ramping up its testing capacity. With at least 160 000 people tested, more than any other on the continent apart from South Africa, the number of confirmed cases has risen almost fivefold to 5 127 since the lockdown was lifted on April 20.

“Given that 90% of our population is informal and they go out each day to earn wages, it became increasingly impossible to continue with such a policy,” said Ofori-Atta, according to a transcript of a speech he delivered in Accra, the capital.

The disease has brought three years of economic expansion of 6% or more to a sudden halt in the nation of 30 million people, with the finance ministry forecasting that growth could slow to 1.5%, the least in 37 years. The International Monetary Fund agreed to $1 billion in emergency funds to Ghana in April while a debt standstill from the World Bank will free up $500 million in interest and principal payments.The lockdown curtailed access to supplies and food prices surged 14.4% in April from a year earlier. That’s almost double the average rate of price growth for the previous eight months, and the highest since December 2016.

© 2020 Bloomberg

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