Fellow Gambians, Distinguished Viewers,
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to be of grave concern globally and nationally, my government continues to remain vigilant and steadfast in reviewing and intensifying measures to prevent, contain and manage its spread within our borders.
In less than two weeks after my last address to the nation, the situation in the country has changed. As confirmed by the Ministry of Health, so far, more than thirty tests have been conducted. Three have been positive, and one is still inconclusive. Only one person among the confirmed cases in the country passed away.
With regards to the unfortunate incident of the people who absconded, almost half of them have been traced. The public is advised to report any person who has escaped quarantine, and to be aware that hiding suspects who pose a threat to public health is contrary to the laws of the land.
We know with certainty that mass movement of people and public gatherings are threats to the containment of COVID-19. Therefore, in addition to the measures mentioned in my last address, decision has been taken to impose new restrictions.
To curtail our exposure to infection through close interactions, my government has taken the decision to scale down government operations. Accordingly, all Heads of government institutions, parastatals, private enterprises and other institutions have been instructed to scale down their activities, with minimal staff to perform basic services. Where feasible, staff can work from home.
At the private sector level, all non-essential services are declared suspended with immediate effect. Only essential services, such as emergency medical services, sale of essential items and commodities, will continue.
I have been informed that there are enough supplies of essential commodities for the immediate and medium-term needs of the country. In this light, strict measures have been devised to curb attempts to hoard or hike the prices of basic commodities.
I implore the business community to continue to cooperate in stabilising the prices of all basic commodities.
Gambians and all residents in The Gambia must understand that business is not as usual, hence the need to take strict measures to protect ourselves.
Fellow Gambians, Distinguished Audience,
On 18th March 2020, I signed the first Proclamation in relation to the pandemic, which was published in the gazette under Section 34(1) (b) of the 1997 Constitution. In it, I declared that a situation exists, which may lead to a state of public emergency if it persists.
I have now signed a second Proclamation declaring a state of public emergency throughout The Gambia. Under this Proclamation, the following measures shall be enforced with effect from today, 27th March 2020: –
1. All non-essential food outlets in all markets and enclosed shopping areas shall be closed.
2. All non-essential public places, such as bars, cafeterias, cinemas, video clubs, gymnasiums, museums, night clubs, public swimming pools, events halls, casinos, gaming parlours and sporting venues shall be closed.
3. All public places of worship shall be closed.
4. The number of people attending any social gathering, such as weddings, naming ceremonies and funerals shall be restricted to a maximum of ten people.
5. All public transport shall carry half of the total number of passengers they are allowed to transport by law.
Invoking the powers invested in me as President under the Emergency Powers Act of the Laws of The Gambia, this is one of a series of Regulations I have signed, starting with the freezing of prices of all essential commodities to prevent any form of hoarding.
Already, an Essential Commodities Committee has been set up to monitor and enforce these Regulations. In this regard, I appeal to the goodwill of the business community to respect these measures for the general welfare of our people.
Notwithstanding the restrictions, the general public is reassured that essential services will continue. These include services provided by banks, petrol stations, traders and vendors in food and basic commodities in the markets, supermarkets and corner-shops.
However, this must be done in accordance with the WHO recommended social distancing guidelines.
My government has approved a Five Hundred Million Dalasi (D500 Million) emergency fund, which the Ministries of Health and Finance will work on for disbursement and use to fight the COVID-19 menace.
I seize this occasion to specifically thank the private sector, as well as all philanthropists and individuals for their financial support.
Your contributions will go a long way in complementing Government’s efforts in this joint fight. I thank you all.
On behalf of everyone, I also commend the national response teams, committees and frontline workers for their invaluable service to the nation. While my government continues to take leadership to guide the entire process, I extend deep appreciation to the wider community, including religious leaders, civil society, all Gambian citizens and people living in the country, for their cooperation.
In a similar vein, I call on all political party leaders and civil society organisations to work with Government in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. All efforts and cooperation during these trying moments are appreciated very much indeed.
Once again, I urge all of us to take the pandemic as a serious threat which requires all our collaborative and cooperative efforts to overcome. Let us cooperate fully with the health and security authorities so that measures adopted to stop the spread of the coronavirus can be effective.
This implies maintaining high personal hygiene standards that include regular hand washing, avoiding hand shaking, observing social distancing and all other regulations and measures necessary to fight COVID-19.
Long live The Gambia! Thank you for your attention.