Fellow Citizens, Residents of The Gambia, It is now obvious that no one is immune to the coronavirus and its impact. The recent increase in the number of cases, including high profile personalities within and outside of my government, as well as other citizens and non-citizens alike, is of concern to me and cause for alarm. I take this moment, therefore, to extend my condolences to all the families who have lost loved ones, and I pray that the departed souls rest in eternal peace. My best wishes for a speedy recovery also go to all those infected by the virus.
My Dear Citizens and Residents of The Gambia, In April of this year, our health experts projected that by July-August 2020, cases of coronavirus related infections and mortality will rise in the country. In the past weeks, we have witnessed this sad development, with a dramatic rise in the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in our dear country. The latest situational report on the country indicates that more than one thousand five hundred infected cases and over forty deaths have been recorded in the country. Health Experts have suggested that these numbers can be minimised if we work together as a people; that is, as government authorities, experts, frontline personnel, household members and individuals.
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. To mitigate its impact, my government has taken decisive policy decisions to address the health, economic and social concerns associated with the coronavirus. I have invoked Constitutional powers to impose emergency regulations. 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. In the process, all arms of Government, relevant institutions, partners and stakeholders have been engaged to enforce measures to protect our people.
Dear Citizens and Residents of The Gambia, the reality is that we all have a stake in ensuring the enforcement of the measures put in place. Whether we are in a position of authority, an enforcement agent or a citizen or resident of The Gambia, everyone of us has the common responsibility to prevent, contain and stop the spread of COVID-19. No one else will do it for us; we have to stand up in unity, and act together as a nation.
Fellow Citizens and Residents of The Gambia, the reasons for cutting down business activities, restricting movement, and declaring a state of emergency, are obvious. We live in unusual circumstances which require unusual, urgent and decisive action. I appreciate that many of you would like me to address the nation often and I want to assure you I will do so whenever the need arises. 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.
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.
Fellow Citizens, each of us can be an advocate for healthy living, if we follow the precautionary measures advised by experts. We can all be law enforcement agents, if we value and respect the rule of law. We can have the type of country we want to live in, if we all act responsibly and hold ourselves duly accountable to the nation.
It is obvious that we will make a positive difference towards the development of our country if we value the time we spend and do good. Importantly too, we can maintain peace and stability in the country, if we are honest, truthful and sincere, and treat everyone as an equal. That is why my government chooses dialogue and observing the rule of law, noting that The Gambia belongs to all of us. Through dialogue and respect for each other, we can achieve our development aspirations. Fellow Citizens, Residents of The Gambia, To stop the spread of the corona virus, we are all duty-bound to wear a face mask, properly covering our 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.
It is important to emphasise further that all transporters, be they official, private or commercial, should be responsible enough to wear a proper facemask and ensure that passengers in their vehicles wear an appropriate mask in a proper manner. Anyone who violates this regulation or breaks the curfew in force will be dealt with according to the Law without any compromise. Every sector of 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 environs.
While Civic Education groups and the media sensitise the public, families, neighbours and friends have the civic and moral obligation to enlighten one another on the messages from the experts, the regulations and their implications. Government can devise or invoke the necessary public health laws and regulations, but it is our responsibility as individuals 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. There is an old adage that “Prevention is better than cure.” Acting on this, let us demonstrate that we care about ourselves and those around us by following the COVID-19 prevention guidelines, regulations and measures.
My dear Citizens and Friends of The Gambia, Once again, 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. Therefore, let us work together to contain and stop the spread of the coronavirus. We are One Gambia, One People. Act now and stop the spread of the virus. Indeed, COVID-19 is Real!
Thank you for your kind attention.