By Nelson Manneh
President Adama Barrow has yesterday issued a statement suspending all public gathering henceforth.
He said: “All schools, including universities, madrassas and daras or majlis will be closed from Wednesday, 18th March 2020 for 21 days.”
“Realising how vulnerable people are during public gatherings, I hereby declare that all public gatherings are suspended henceforth. This suspension includes all international and local conferences, workshops and seminars to be hosted in The Gambia,” the release stated.
“In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, caused by Coronavirus, I commend the Ministry of Health and partners, all frontline health workers and support staff for the efforts made to put together a responsive emergency program.
You will recall that on 30th January 2020, the World Health Organization declared Coronavirus or the Covid-19 disease a Public Health Emergency of International concern.
As a result, my Government has since been deeply concerned and, through the Ministry of Health, began alerting the Gambian public about the global outbreak of Coronavirus,” the release indicated.
The president said they immediately resolved to prevent, contain and manage COVID-19 cases in the country by raising public awareness through the media and orientating health workers, along with other necessary preventive measures.
“The Ministry of Health and partners have been working extremely hard over the period to enhance their preparedness against COVID-19. For this purpose, an extra-ordinary emergency meeting comprising members of the National Health Emergency Committee and senior medical practitioners in various specializations was convened.
“Another important measure taken has been to strengthen surveillance at the airport and at various points of entry along the Gambian border. In addition, the public has been encouraged to take sanitary measures, among other precautionary actions. Isolation centers and rooms have been prepared also to deal with suspected cases at all major health centers,” it states.
Though at the time of delivery of the statement there was no reported case of any Coronavirus infection in The Gambia, he noted that the Government is not complacent, adding that there are surveillance teams at all major entry points into the country, whether by air or land.
“I have been informed that, as at 15th March, 2020, a total of three hundred and fifty-five (355) people of interest have been followed, some of whom have been put on self-isolation. One hundred and forty-nine (149) of them have completed check-ups without any symptoms of COVID-19. Two hundred and six (206) are still under surveillance. Of the total seen, only eight (8) required laboratory testing, and their results were all negative,” it stated.
The president said he took the opportunity to express his support to all those affected in one way or the other and to assure them of his government’s commitment to preventing any Coronavirus infection in the country.
“On the 11th March 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the COVID-19 a pandemic, many countries continue to report cases of infection, including our close neighbour (Senegal), which confirmed its first case on 29th February 2020. They now have twenty-four (24) confirmed cases, with evidence of local person-to-person transmission,” the president said.
The President said all public gatherings in whatever form, including lumos (open markets) and Gamos are immediately suspended for three weeks.
The suspension period will be subject to review as we get updates from the experts.
“As another preventive measure, all travellers from hotspot countries will be isolated for fourteen (14) days upon arrival in The Gambia.
To reiterate the important health messages of preventing, containing and managing
“Coronavirus, I implore you all to improve on personal hygiene, especially by handwashing often with soap, covering the mouth with a tissue or the elbow when coughing or sneezing and social distancing to prevent transmission.
All citizens and residents of The Gambia are reminded of the importance of adhering to these preventive measures, and avoid handshaking.”
President Barrow said while his government is closely monitoring the situation, he urges the public to get reliable facts about the pandemic through official public awareness programs.
“Once again, I assure you of my government’s commitment and preparedness to stop any Coronavirus infection or transmission in The Gambia. Together, we can achieve this and contribute towards the promotion of good health for all and protecting our country and our people,” the statement noted.