GOOD MORNING MR. PRESIDENT: The effects of coronavirus

Monday, March 30, 2020

Mr. President, we welcome the additional measures taken by your government in the fight against the coronavirus.

The declaration of State of Public Emergency; reducing the number of passengers for public transport, scaling down of staffs and closing down of non essential shops are all steps in the right direction. Shops of building materials, clothes and electronic gadgets should be exempted.

We should always adhere to the WHO preventive measures; social distancing and avoiding public gatherings.

Mr. President, it’s important that we commend the Gambian populace for the quick response and obedience shown in the fight against this deadly coronavirus. Since the detection of the first case in The Gambia, a lot of donations have been given by institutions, civil societies, philanthropists and individuals to other sister organisations, all geared towards the fight against the coronavirus despite having only four confirmed cases for now. You should be specific about the duration of the state of emergency.

Mr. President, the amount of resources received by the government from development partners such as the World Bank, WHO, the European Union, the private sector together with internal government funds should be used for the implementation of policies.

In this regard, it is important that the critical actors are identified. The Ministry of Health as the leader in this fight should collaborate with the media, civil society organisations and the public at large in executing its duties; give account of expenditures and how much is received; in short transparency and accountability.

Mr. President, your government should start thinking of a bailout plan to assist some institutions like hotels who have stopped operating. About 42,000 staff working with 43 main hotels who have been closed and asked to stay home and also families who might run out of food in the long run because their breadwinners are not doing their petty trading.

Since it has been proven that sensitisation and information are the most powerful mechanisms in this battle, government must empower the media (both print and broadcast) by way of tax relief and cash subvention to follow the effective example of Senegal, Ivory Coast, Nigeria and many western countries.

Mr. President, we thank God that aids have started coming with the receiving of the medication and equipment from the People’s Republic of China through their ambassador.

It is time that we have a more effective plan for the utilization of resources, with government decentralising the process. To complete its intervention policy and for the sake of transparency, government should inform the population about its allocation strategy for the resources at its disposal and to identify and raise any funding gaps. Such funding gaps can be raised through internal or external means if it is necessary for Parliament to convene to ratify such allocation of resources.

Mr. President, since Gambia and Senegal are condemned to live together, they should also try to harmonise their health polices too.

Ex president Yahya Jammeh in July 2014 said that 800,000 Senegalese are living in the country and thus it is important that we work together despite border closures.

Mr. President, the issue of people using porous borders to enter countries is becoming another issue. Over the weekend, some authorities of Casamance told Senegalese TV station, TFM, that despite the closure of the borders, many are using the porous borders and this should be addressed soonest. Since our next door neighbour Senegal is registering more cases on a daily basis, we shouldn’t relent in any of our efforts to save the country.

God forbid if it gets to the worst, it will be better for the government to introduce curfew like many African countries from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m., and revise working hours from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The security needs to be re-enforced and equipped with enough masks, sanitisers, transportation and communication facilities to facilitate their work easily.

Finally Mr. President, your government should consider reducing the congestion in the prisons by pardoning a number of prisoners who have already served half of their sentences or committed minor crimes like Ghana and Senegal did last week.

All suspected individuals should be quarantined by force or face the full force of the law.

Good day!