By: Kebba AF Touray
Hon. Alhagie Mbow, National Assembly Member for Upper Saloum and Chairperson of the Special Committee on the Implementation of State of Public Emergency, said that experts at the country’s Health Ministry told them that one hundred and eighty-one thousand people could be infected with COVID-19, if the country fails to adhere strictly to the rules of social distancing.
Mbow said this on Friday while laying the committee’s report on its recent visit to 38 places, including ferry terminals, fish landing sites, markets, border posts and market.
He said the committee report is premised on the objective of holding the executive to account, as it delivers on its commitment to the people during the forty-five day period of the State of Public Emergency, approved by the Lawmakers on the 2nd April 2020.
He said the report seeks to inform lawmakers on the implementation of regulations and their effects on the lives and livelihoods of the people and institutions in the country, as well as to appraise the Legislature on the extent to which the committee has delivered on its mandate.
The committees observed among other things that social distancing was not observed in some public places, hand washing facilities were placed at places visited; vendors along the road side caused congestion, checking of visitor’s temperature were not done.
He said the committee recommended that a regulation criminalizing transport the conduct of drivers or compound owners, who assist any unauthorized traveller to enter the county or harbors any visitor from abroad, as well as a regulation that makes it an offence for anybody who enters the country and refuses to be quarantined or refused to report to health authorities.
On security, he added that the committee recommends for the full enforcement of border closure with the deployment of armed and security forces, Health and Interior Ministries to collaborate and ensure that quarantine and isolation centers are off-bound to visitors, provision of adequate equipment to the Interior Ministry with more vehicles and communication to enforce regulation and to deploy navy to the sea and curb illegal entry into the country.
The committee also recommends that the Finance Ministry to revise the 2020 budget to give more support to the Health Ministry to fight against Coronavirus, review the Public Finance Act 2014 and make correction on laws that contravene the constitution and engage state owned enterprises, to ensure continuity in provision of essential services.
He said: “The committee resolved that the state of public emergency be extended to 21 days, subject to strict adherence to the implementation of all state of public emergency regulations, that the Assembly to recognize the relentless services of the health workers in the country, support of the MRC as well as the support of the World Health Organization”.
Lawmakers during their interventions hailed the committee for the good work and called for the enforcement and implementation of the precautionary measures. They also tasked the authorities to ensure that the border closure is enforced and fully implemented, noting that despite the closure, people are still entering the country. They also reiterated the need for effective mass sensitization, to widen the understanding of the communities to contain the disease and address the denial syndrome.
The lawmakers are currently debating on the report and once adopted will usher the Gambia in another state of public emergency.