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City of Banjul
Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Coronavirus restrictions: Rethinking the new normal

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As detailed in one of our front page stories today, Senegal, our neighbour with which we share 740 kilometres of mostly porous border, has announced it will reopen its air space in exactly two weeks on July 15,with the resumption of international flights “according to a defined health protocol”.The land and sea borders are to remain closed.

The Gambia should follow suit and beyond. We should reopen our land borders even if we are to put restriction on the number of people who can enter or leave. As it is, anyone who wants to enter or exit The Gambia from Senegal can do so. Instead of the unenforceable “closing of the border”leading to people surreptitiously sneaking in and out, declare the border open and monitor those going in and out.

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The fact is, we are most likely going to learn to live with the coronavirus – just like HIV/Aids and Ebola to some extent. It is very unlikely we are going to eradicate coronavirus anytime soon, with no real treatment, no cure, and no vaccine on the horizon. This is what the “new normal” is about.

Since we do not have the means and wherewithal to do periodic mass testing across the nation. And since our government does not have the resources to provide lifeline to the people and businesses for a sustained period of time, our focus should be on how to manage and contain the spread of the coronavirus. That is why it made sense to reopen the mosques, churches and markets. And that is why it would make sense, to reopen the schools, beaches and playgrounds.

For months, we have upended our lives to protect ourselves and each other from the highly contagious and potentially lethal pathogen. We went on lockdowns, self-quarantines, sheltering in place, social distancing, hand-washing and mask-wearing. And it worked. That is why we never recorded the tens of thousands of cases predicted by the geometric progression models sold to us by scientists at the MRC and elsewhere.

The return to normalcy and the easing of restrictions, means we must take personal responsibility to keep a safe distance from others, to wear masks so we don’t cause the coronavirus to spread airborne farther, and to make sure we constantly sanitise our hands in case we have touched a contaminated surface.

Even the littlest of kids in Kombo Kafuta knows that Covid-19 spreads when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks, and droplets from that person’s mouth or nose are launched into the air and land in the mouths, noses or eyes of people nearby. And that the droplets can also be inhaled into the lungs. That Covid-19 can live for hours or days on a surface, depending on factors such as sunlight and humidity, and the type of surface. And that social distancing helps limit opportunities to come in contact with contaminated surfaces and infected people outside the home.

People know that regardless of our government’s actions, we have a role to play in slowing the spread and protecting ourselves, our families and our community from the virus that causes Covid-19, as well as other viruses that cause other transmittable diseases, such as tuberculosis, for example.

We know that we aren’t out of the woods yet and that taking precautions will not kill us. We know that is the new normal. There is no other way.

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