Ghana has announced plans to fine airlines $3,500 for each passenger who arrives in the West African country without being fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
A joint statement by the Ghana Health Service and Ghana Civil Aviation Authority on Monday stated that the new measure is part of plans to prevent the West African country from the spread of omicron, a highly transmissible virus strain.
“The current increase in cases together with the detection of the omicron variant among international arrivals and the expected increase during the festive season calls for urgent actions to prevent a major surge in COVID-19 cases in Ghana,” the Ghana Health Service said.
While Ghanaians who fly in without meeting the requirement will be allowed to enter the country and undergo a 14-day quarantine, non-Ghanaian nationals who are not fully vaccinated may be banned from entering the country and returned to the airport they departed from at the cost of the airline.
The move comes as governments around the world increase travel restrictions to prevent the spread of omicron. However, in most of the cases, authorities put the obligation on airlines to enforce the rules. Ghana’s move however comes across as one of the strictest in the region.
The new penalties come days after Ghana began requiring all passengers over the age of 18 to provide evidence of full vaccination against the virus, saying that about 60% of the total new cases recorded in the country had come from the airport.
Ghana, a country with a population of about 31 million, has one of the best COVID-19 testing programs in West Africa and has had 131,547 confirmed cases and 1,243 deaths since the pandemic began, according to the Ghana health service.
Omicron was first discovered in southern Africa and has already been detected in several European countries as well as the United States and Asia.