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Sunday, October 24, 2021

Gov’t must do more to prevent airlines from bringing Ebola to Gambia

Speaking at a press conference at his party headquarters on Kairaba Avenue, Mr Bah said his initial statement on this issue has been vindicated by the recent announcement by Britain cancelling a local airline’s licence to run the London-Freetown route.

He said government should take cue from that and make sure that the interest of the Gambian people is protected by ensuring that airlines do not fly to the Ebola affected nations whether or not they are bringing passengers from there to Banjul. 

‘Let me explain, since the airline and its crew are based in The Gambia, where they must return to on routine basis, there is a risk that the cabin crew might get the infection from passengers they serve on the flights and they in turn could bring it to The Gambia where they live or spend time with people,” Mr Bah said.

Asked if he is not satisfied with the particular airline’s explanation that they are not picking up passengers from Freetown as directed by the Gambia government, Mr Bah produced a photo copy of an information leaflet dating mid-August which he said is the airline’s schedule for flights to Freetown and other places. “Some flights in this schedule are dated after the government directive was given. I am not sure if this was printed before the directive or whether they have not flown there since the directive. It is for them to convince the Gambian people that they actually stopped flying the Freetown-Banjul route after the directive had been issued,” Mr Bah asserted. He went on: “I hope people will understand that we are not at war with [the airline] but we are at war with Ebola”.

According to the NRP leader, the devastation caused by Ebola in the region has already taken its toll on The Gambia because the very generalisation of West Africa as an Ebola zone is scaring tourists away from the country. “Tourism is our gold, diamond and mineral resources and once it is wrecked, it takes ages to restore. That is why we in the NRP are concerned about this issue,” Mr Bah said.

Still on tourism, the NRP leader called on the government to seek external funds to subsidise the shock effects a poor tourist season would have on the economy of The Gambia. In this drive, Mr Bah urged government to consider waiving tax on tourism sector operators for a year to enable them to at least keep some of their staff to prevent massive unemployment as a result of a poor tourist season.  The local airline Mr Bah has been referring to had in an earlier statement maintained that they are strictly adhering to the Gambia government’s directive not to pick passengers from Freetown and have no intention of contravening it at any time.

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