By Omar Bah
President Adama Barrow has finally answered the calls for him to address the nation as Covid-19 continues to wreak havoc.
In his long-awaited speech since his last appearance weeks ago on state broadcaster, Barrow said he appreciates that many Gambians want him to address the nation often and he assured that he will do so whenever the need arises.
Turning to the Covid-19 pandemic,the president said it is now obvious that no one is immune to the coronavirus and its impact, given the number of high profile personalities contracting the virus.
While extending his condolences to all the families who have lost loved ones, the Gambian leader prayed for the speedy recovery for all those who are hospitalised.
“With serious consequences, COVID-19 has derailed our development agenda, challenged our health system and undermined our economic growth. Our GDP indicators have become unrealistic, trade has slowed down and many young people are now unemployed. In one way or another, we are all affected by the global Coronavirus pandemic,” the president said.
In an attempt to mitigate its impact, Barrow said his government has taken decisive policy decisions to address the health, economic and social concerns associated with the Coronavirus.
“We have provided funds to fight the pandemic, and have supported frontline institutions and our heroes, who are tirelessly and whole heartedly fighting to save us all. I have established a Cabinet Sub-Committee to provide policy guidance. Together, we have demonstrated very strong political will through the implementation of a comprehensive National COVID Response Programme,” he said.
He emphasised that all Gambians have a role to play in ensuring the enforcement of the measures put in place to contain the spread of the virus.
“The reasons for cutting down business activities, restricting movement, and declaring a state of emergency, are obvious because we live in unusual circumstances which require unusual, urgent and decisive action,” he explained.
“I must emphasise, however, that the most important thing is taking collective action to enforce the messages in my addresses on the pandemic and the advice by the health experts. Whenever I address the nation, I do so in the national interest and every law-abiding citizens and residents of the country should abide by our pronouncements,” he noted.
“It is not my wish to see any citizen and resident of The Gambia suffer in any form. If we work together, respect our diversity and utilise our expertise, we can do a lot more to change our situation,” he added.
To stop the spread of the corona virus, president added, Gambians are all duty-bound to wear face mask, properly covering their mouth and nose, before going to any public place.
“We do not have to wait until the law is applied before we do the right thing. Let us police ourselves as individuals, groups and communities. Anyone who violates this regulation or breaks the curfew in force will be dealt with according to the Law without any compromise,” he noted.
He said every sector of Gambian society has a duty to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
“I encourage and call upon the religious leaders to support and adhere to the COVID-19 measures in the best interest of the country. Municipal and Area Councils, Market Managers and all stakeholders are advised to provide sanitary facilities and design proper physical distancing mechanisms in all markets and their environment,” he stressed.
Government, he added, can only devise or invoke the necessary public health laws and regulations, but it is thepeople’s responsibility to maintain regular hand washing, proper wearing of masks in public places and practise physical distancing.
“In the thick of all these, Law Enforcement Agents will have to enforce the emergency powers. I reassure you that my government will continue to pursue the right policies and programmes for the betterment of our citizens. We will maintain an environment where peace, progress, the rule of law and self-realisation will thrive,” he noted.