By: Kebba AF Touray
President Barrow on Thursday told lawmakers that plans are underway to construct eight permanent treatment centres, and refurbish other isolation centres across the country. He said that if the need arises, former Ndemban Clinic and the Sanatorium are ready for use as centres to treat COVID-19 patients.
President Barrow made these remarks on Thursday 17th September 2020, during the state of the nation address at the Legislative House.
He said reacting to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Health has developed a comprehensive Preparedness and Response Plan, which focuses, among other areas, on scaling-up and strengthening support, coordination, surveillance, case management, communication and logistics.
He underscored that with support from the Global Fund, the National Public Health Laboratory has been refurbished and upgraded to a Biological Safety Level Three laboratory to test for COVID-19, which was previously done solely by the Medical Research Council-Gambia.
President Barrow continued that with support from the World Bank, a new National Emergency Treatment Centre and a Training Centre will be established to respond to emergency cases, and in line with the National Health Financing Policy (2017-2030) and the National Health Financing Strategic Plan (2018-2024), the introduction of a National Health Insurance Scheme, is at an advanced stage, as the draft Bill on the scheme is ready for review by Cabinet.
On maternal and child health services, he said the government is committed to the reduction of under-five and maternal mortality, adding that significant gains have been registered recently for both infant mortality and under-five mortality, with an increase in deliveries conducted by skilled birth attendants in health facilities.
He said: “As evidence, this year, my government contributed D32 million towards immunisation services. Primary Healthcare villages have increased from six hundred and thirty-four to seven hundred and twenty-two. This is part of our effort to implement and strengthen the concept of Primary Healthcare”.
He hailed the healthcare givers in the Riders for Health, MRC-Gambia and all the operatives within the health sector, for risking their lives to be frontline workers in the fight against the deadly coronavirus.
On Petroleum and Energy, President Barrow decried that the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has led to the suspension of the planned drilling exploration by FAR-PETRONAS. Hence drilling has been rescheduled from end of the year, 2020 to 2021. Similarly, British Petroleum’s drilling activities will commence in 2021, he said.
He said that the government has ensured that both heavy and light fuel will be made available country-wide., so as to mitigate the anticipated impact of the pandemic on the prices of petroleum products.
He remarked that through the on-going structural and legislative reforms, Government will table a Bill to create an autonomous Petroleum Commission, which aims to further strengthen the regulatory landscape and guarantee regulatory independence for the upstream activities of the sector.
He also said in collaboration with their partners, the Government has undertaken a number of important projects and programmes in this sector, which include but not limited to 1100 schools and health facilities solar project, as well as renewable energy and energy efficiency installations projects.
He echoed: “The Mining Sector is a driving force for employment and availability of raw materials for the construction industry. Nonetheless, we have been mindful of regulating it. Based on the regulations for precious minerals, five special mining licenses have been granted”.
He added: “To avoid depleting our sand resources, licences are now issued for inland sand mining. Exploitation of sand offshore is being considered. These issues will be captured in the proposed Minerals and Mining Policy that will be developed and tabled before this august Assembly”.