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Rights group advises gov’t to tighten Covid restrictions

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By Omar Bah

The Human Rights Advancement and Development Centre (HURIDAC), an international NGO, has urged the Gambia government to strictly strengthen restrictions and regulations on Covid-19 guidelines amid spike in cases around the world.

The NGO said the government should avoid loosening Covid-19 restrictions and that citizens including high-level government officials should avoid disobeying the regulations.

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The organisation said the epidemiology and disease control unit of the Ministry of Health had blamed the loosening of restrictions, including airspace and land borders with Senegal as the cause of the spike in the number of cases in mid-July.

This led the Gambia government to take some measures in order to curb the spread of the virus by closing all non-essential public and private businesses, airspace and land borders, enforcing social distancing, wearing of face masks and declaring curfews.

The NGO is mandated to promote, protect and ensure respect for human rights, democracy and development; build the capacity and knowledge base of civil society, government institutions, oversight bodies and other agencies and communities on human rights, development, democracy and conflict prevention; and to use the process of the rule of law to hold governments and their agents accountable.

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The human rights NGO in furtherance of its work on rights-based approach on the management of the Covid-19 pandemic, published a factsheet on The Gambia. This explores the management of the pandemic by the Gambian government from human rights perspective.

“There is need for more enlightenment and sensitization programs especially in the rural areas as some citizens are still in denial of the presence and fatality of the virus. Priority should be given to market women in this initiative as a large of households in the country have at least one. Enforcement officers should be trained on implementation of the regulations, especially to avoid torture and harassment of citizens. The rights of the people should be prioritized at all cost,” the NGO added.

The Nigeria-based NGO also recommended that the government strengthen the health system of the country by training and employing more medical personnel, increase the number of medical centres, proper management of isolation centres and provide adequate number of PPEs to all arms for proper work discharge and control on the spread of the virus.

“The government should also structure and further facilitate access to health facilities for the people, especially the most vulnerable (women and children inclusive) and those at greatest risk,” the NGO added.

The Gambia recorded its first Covid-19 case on March 17, 2020 involving a female Gambian returnee from the United Kingdom and now has over 3000 confirmed cases.

The NGO said for a country to self –evaluate the impact of governance in the management of the pandemic, “It is pertinent to explore these guidelines from human rights perspective as well as the success criteria developed by HURIDAC, which are: Efficient management of the pandemic, state of the health care system and citizen compliance.”

“The rights-based approach to management of covid-19 pandemic puts Human Rights and the people at the center of government management strategy. As it is the responsibility of the government and designated institutions to afford human rights to her citizens, by affording every citizen to have the rights to life and good healthcare. This report shows how the Gambian government managed the pandemic in respect to human rights driven by the covid-19 data analysis of the country,” the NGO added.

 “At the heart of the covid-19 pandemic, the people and their basic human rights especially rights to life and rights to health is at risk.”         

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