According to the latest Covid-19 national situation report issued by the Ministry of Health on 20thMarch, since the confirmation of the first case in the country on 16thMarch 2020 at least 161 Gambians have died of complications leading from the disease. A total 5,255 cases were recorded out of which at least 4,760 recovered. Neighbouring Senegal registered cases 37,428 cases, out of which 995 people died and 33,643 recovered. Globally 2.7 million have succumbed to the disease.
According to Gambia Government figures, the country currently has 219 active cases and a crude case-fatality ratio of 3.1% with 6 patients on oxygen therapy. These figures, grim as they are, do not paint a true picture of what is actually happening in the country. The country is by all accounts undergoing a second or third wave of the disease. The unprecedented rates of death particularly among the elderly across the length and breadth of the country are alarming. Everyday, a pillar of a community is lost to this disease. It is so bad in some communities that there are queues to inter bodies at cemeteries.
This coronavirus is a clear and present danger yet there are people, some of them opinion leaders in the community, who use their pulpits and other platforms to tell people that there is no coronavirus in the country; that all the talk about Covid-19 is Western propaganda fighting Islam and that people should refuse to be administered the AstraZeneca and Sinopharm vaccines. These people are criminals who through their cavalier and anti-vax statements could cause people to die avoidable deaths. The authorities should prosecute these peddlers of irresponsible statements to serve as a deterrent to others.
On the other hand, some of the coronavirus regulations and restrictions are still in place and health and police authorities must adopt more robust and proactive enforcement. People must wear masks in public places and wash hands as often as possible. There should be a ban on all unnecessary social gatherings and where possible, social distancing should be observed. Over the past several months, political parties in the country did not do themselves any favours by holding mass rallies and congresses. And government woefully failed by allowing tens of thousands of people to gather at the Bakau stadium, QCity and other entertainment venues in the name of a musician launching an album of songs. What was more beguiling was that government even allowed performers from Senegal to travel here for jigs when they could not do so in their own country. Now it appears we are paying the price for our ineptitude.
But now is not the time for blame games. We have an existential crisis and what we need is for every one to do his or her bit. The government must be more proactive in enforcing the official regulations. The media must amplify the message that Covid-19 is real, is here and we must follow the WHO and government guidelines. Community leaders must not shirk their responsibilities. They must set examples and tell their people that they have a duty of care towards themselves, their families and especially the elderly by taking the necessary precautions not to contract and spread the disease.
This is a matter of life and death. The choice is ours. Through our individual and collective actions we can let Covid-19 decimate our communities, wreck our economies and social order, or, we can defeat the virus and rebuild our lives and maintain our social order. This is not the time for the proverbial Qur’anic idiot who has eyes but cannot see or ears but cannot hear