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Friday, April 16, 2021

Gambia’s second Covid-19 wave: Did we rush to ease restrictions?

Gambians are not new to living in a state of emergency because the 2016 political impasse is still afresh in our minds. However, we did have to adapt to new restrictions that came with the state of emergency declared in mid-March 2020 shortly before the country announced its first coronavirus case. The new normal was difficult as the world grappled with the devastating impact of Covid-19 which has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and shattered economies.

In our quest to stop the virus from reaching our shores, President Barrow declared a state of emergency which effectively restricted all public gatherings. But the virus is here anyway and barely five months since its unwelcomed arrival, the impact is palpable.

On 4 June 2020, after the government felt the cases have slowed down with just 26 and only 4 active cases, President Barrow eased the restrictions that were in place for almost three months. The cases were coming in dribs and drabs, with just one death. In hindsight, that now looks like a very bad idea.

Since the emergency restrictions were eased in early June, The Gambia registered at least 85 new cases since and three more deaths.

What is even more worrying is that since frontline workers had a brief strike, the cases seem to surge exponentially with healthcare workers now the new victims. At least 15 healthcare workers have contracted the dreaded coronavirus now, with one senior nurse at the EFSTH dying from the virus.

One standout feature of almost all the cases registered during the emergency restrictions was importation. It’s either from Senegal or from Europe. Now, however, according to the health ministry, 58% of the new daily record 19 cases have no known chain of infection. Meaning, the health authorities don’t know or couldn’t establish how these people contracted the virus. This is a frightening evidence that the second wave of the virus has come with community transmission.

The government has announced that effective Friday, everyone is mandated to wear a facemask. Previous restrictions hardly worked. Will this one work or did we rush in easing restrictions?

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