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City of Banjul
Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Letters: Denial of coronavirus should be criminalized

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Dear editor,
When information is such that it can cause death, civil strife or unrest, such information becomes as dangerous as those things: death, civil strife or unrest. In the midst of the fight against COVID-19, there exist people who not only deny its existence but also go on publicising their misgivings about it.

The danger is that not all people are cynical enough to doubt or question the false narrative of these people. In the Gambia, where we have an all but broken-down health system, serious efforts have been – and are still being made – to contain the spread of this virus. As a result, up until now the country – unlike many in the world – has not recorded up to twenty cases.

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This is something to be optimistic about but also pragmatism will dictate that we intensify our efforts to ensure that the gains are consolidated. The campaign to sensitize people must continue and containment measures strengthened in order to remain safe, generally.
These efforts, in my humble opinion, should now include legislations to criminalize the denial of the existence of the coronavirus. Or, can we use the State of Public Health Emergency to regulate against it? The lawyers and experts should help explain this to us. The need has never been more acute.

I read a news story which says that the Deputy Party Leader of the APRC, Mr Dodou Jah has accused the government of lying about the coronavirus cases only to get access to the funds being dished out by the International Community. One is at a loss whether this is cynicism or just political gymnastics.

Even ordinary guys like me, who know zilch, can understand that the measures needed, and taken by our government cause more losses to it than any amount they might get from donors. What sense would there be for government to say that there are coronavirus cases in the Gambia when there aren’t?

If anyone reads or hears of this story and happens to believe it and it leads to such a person throwing caution to the wind and then contracts the disease and dies, it would be murder, plain and simple. But then the blame will not only be on said deputy party leader but on the government for not stopping him from misleading the people.

Just like denial of the holocaust is outlawed in some countries so should we outlaw denial of coronavirus. Let us support our gallant health workers in this fight. This is not a fight for one but a fight for all. Our health workers are risking their lives every day to fight against this pandemic and the least we could do is to give them our full support.
Musa Bah
Bundung

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