Traveling to BMC During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Last month, Dr. Haun and her family returned to Ghana after Kotoka International Airport (KIA) re-opened. Here Rev. William Haun describes what volunteers traveling to BMC should know in order to be prepared for a smooth travel experience during the pandemic.
We hope this helps as you prepare to come serve with us again. Please visit the official KIA website for the latest news, guidelines and updates.
1) You must have a negative PCR test result from an accredited laboratory in your country of origin and it must be administered within 72 hours of your scheduled departure time.
Our family flew out of Tampa, Florida on a Saturday evening at 6pm, so we had our PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests done on Thursday morning at noon (54 hours prior) using a LabCorps testing site. We had our results within 24 hours via an online health portal and we printed two copies of each result to carry with us during travel.
We flew Delta/KLM and had a layover in Amsterdam. There we had to present the test result documents before we were even allowed to go to our gate. Then it was double checked before boarding. We saw passengers turned away because their tests were older than 72 hours from their departure in their country of origin.
Note: our “country of origin” was the US, not The Netherlands.
2) You will be denied entry if you have “symptoms suggestive of COVID-19 including body temperature > 38°C (100.4°F)”
Even if your COVID-19 test is NEGATIVE, the official KIA guidelines state that they can deny you entry for symptoms or fever. For this reason, our family made sure we had the flu vaccine in the US before coming.
You may wish to postpone your travel if you are showing common cold or flu-like symptoms, despite a NEGATIVE COVID test.
3) You have to complete an online Health Declaration Form before passing immigration in Accra.
We did not know about this in advance but KIA had several iPads available for us to use. I would recommend you fill out the form before leaving the US to save yourself time in Accra. It is available here: https://ghs-hdf.org/
4) Upon arrival at KIA, everyone must get a rapid COVID-19 test. The cost is $150 per person.
Again, we didn’t realize we could pay the $150 in advance online and I recommend that to all travelers. You can pay at the following website: https://myfrontierhealthcare.com/Home/Pay Be sure to print your receipt and you will present it to the officials at KIA before undergoing your COVID test.
If you don’t pay online, you can pay in cash or credit card at the airport. We paid with new $100 US bills.
The testing process was very orderly and professionally executed. After your nose is swabbed in a cubicle by a nurse, you then proceed to immigration and on to baggage claim. You are not permitted to leave with your baggage until your test result arrives and is NEGATIVE.
The KIA website claims it takes 12 minutes. However, you will spend at least 30 minutes in immigration and baggage claim. Two of our family members’ results were ready as soon as we had our luggage. However, Dr. Haun and a few other passengers on our flight had to wait almost 2 hours for their results. It was never made clear to us what the issue had been.
5) If your airport test is POSITIVE, you will be quarantined at a government hospital for two weeks at your own personal expense.
We thank God that we were all NEGATIVE. If you tested NEGATIVE before your flight, wore a mask during travel and followed good hygiene protocols, you should not have any issue with the test upon arrival.
However, anyone coming must understand that there is a risk that they could be quarantined if their test comes back POSITIVE.
6) The wearing of masks is required in public in Ghana until (at least) December 14th.
In Accra, you will see many people wearing masks and many businesses require hand washing, temperature checks, and masks for entry. There is a hefty fine if you are caught not wearing your mask (minimum $2000, max $10000).
That said, once you reach the northern regions you will observe that “pandemic fatigue” has set in and most Ghanaians are no longer wearing masks. Enforcement has not been consistent and many in the general public believe that COVID is a non-issue in the north.
BMC in Nalerigu, however, continues to require masks for staff, patients, and visitors to the hospital.
7) A NEGATIVE COVID-19 test is not required to leave Ghana or enter the US (as of Oct. 6th)
However, here at BMC we have rapid tests available (BIOSYS Plus – SARS-COV-2 IgM/IgG Rapid Test) and can test volunteers before they leave BMC. We can provide you with an official document to carry stating your NEGATIVE test result as you return to your country of origin.