By Momodou Jarju
The Gambia is expected to have 181, 000 Covid-19 infected cases around June-July when it is predicted to be at its peak, if the people continue to ignore the social distancing measures provided by health officials.
This is revealed by the National Assembly Special Select Committee on the Implementation of the State of Public Emergency Regulations 2020 on the sideline after a meeting it held on Wednesday with four ministries at the assembly in Banjul.
The special committee is mandated by parliament to talk to various stakeholders in relation to the public emergency on the regulations or on issues related to Covid-19.
Alagie Mbow, the chairperson of the special committee, said they engaged the ministries of Justice, Interior, Finance and Economic Affairs, and Trade, Industry and Regional Integration, to ascertain what each of the aforementioned ministries are doing in relation to the regulations put in place by government to curb the spread of the virus.
“But the most critical issue right now is for people to observe social distancing. Is a very big issue and yesterday (Tuesday) we were told by the minister if things didn’t change… if people are not observing social distancing, there is a potential that Gambia may be infected with over 180, 000 cases and that’s is really dangerous,” he said.
Mbow pleaded to all Gambians to observe social distancing to safe the country from the Covid-19 pandemic. He further called on shops that are allowed to open at certain times, to have the necessary cleaning materials to ensure whoever goes to those shops is advised to use sanitizers.
He also cautioned Gambians that the deadly virus doesn’t discriminate whether the person is white or black or comes from a different region.
Speaking further, Mbow indicated that the health officials are trying to protect the entire population and the best thing Gambians should do is to listen to them and ensure they follow the strict guidelines on social distancing.
Mbow said enforcement is another critical issue they talked about. And according to him, the police need to enforce the regulations, but they need equipment to be able to do that. This equipment includes mobility and protective gears.
He said: “Because when you are dealing with people, you don’t know who has the virus and who doesn’t have the virus…We ‘ve been told the ministry of health is working with them and they will be supplied with necessary gears. And also we have the military on standby just to ensure that all these things are enforced,” he said.
In terms of the availability of foodstuff in the country; Mbow said they were told that there is enough, but the government is making efforts to bar people who are trying to smuggle foodstuff out of the country.
“I think we have enough, but there is something they are also saying that there is a lot effort they are doing to curb the movement of food out of this country, actually there is an issue going on right now and I think this is the responsibility of all Gambians to ensure that we keep the food here even though there are some coming, but we have to ensure what we have is actually kept here,” he said.
Justice Ministry To Make Amendment
In the same vein, Mbow said the ministry of justice is set to amend the regulations on essential and non-essential commodities regulations 2020.
This came amid complaints from Gambians that the measures rolled out are not helping the vulnerable people most of whom are buyers. It is expected that the amendment of the regulations, which will be in the next few days, will be at the best interest of all and sundry.
Dawda Kawsu Jawara, vice chairperson of the special committee, said it has come to their notice that some vendors have actually increased the prices of commodities as opposed to the regulations.
“We are very certain that by the time we finish conducting our exercise, we will come up with very good news,” he said, adding that they are confident that they will deliver to people’s expectations.
Mbow said the justice minister told them that they are going to amend the regulations and in the next few days, the population will know the changes.
“I think in the next few days, the population will be told what are some of these amendments in terms of opening and closing times of essential and non-essential commodities that many of our people are actually asking for,” he said.
Mr. Jawara further said the planned amendments will be gazetted and communicated to the masses.
He also seized the opportunity to appeal to Gambians to adhere to the social distancing advice to safe the country from the Covid-19 pandemic.