The new measures have become necessary because of the rapid spread of a new variant of coronavirus. Little is known about this mutant but the government's advisers on new infections now say they have "high" confidence that it is more able to transmit than other variants. Apparently, it has become the most common form of the virus in some parts of England.
Mr. President, this new type of coronavirus was first detected in September and by November around a quarter of cases in London was affected by the new variant.
This reached nearly two-thirds of cases in mid-December, dominating the results of testing in some centres.
The new variant is believed to spread more easily and Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the variant may be up to 70% more transmissible.
The variant can be found across the UK, except Northern Ireland, but it is heavily concentrated in London, the South East and eastern England. Cases elsewhere in the country do not seem to have taken off.
The new variant has been found in some other countries such as in Denmark, Australia, the Netherlands and South Africa, some of them related to the UK variant.
Mr. President, news of the new variant of the coronavirus forced many countries around the world to ban travel to and from the UK.
These include Argentina, Belgium, Bulgaria, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Estonia, France, Germany, Grenada, Greece, Guatemala, Hong Kong, India, Iran, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Jordan, Kuwait, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mauritius, Morocco, Netherlands, North Macedonia, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Ireland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey, Trinidad and Tobago, Ukraine and the United States
Mr. President, The question in the minds of many Gambians is what action will The Gambia take to prevent the new variant from reaching our shores. In the list above, only two African countries – Morocco and Tunisia - have taken similar action. More so, it is possible that the measures imposed by the Government and the ministries of Health and Tourism requiring all travellers to bring along a negative Covid-19 test result taken not more than 72 hours before departure seem to be working. But will the 72 hours clearance work in this case as it is a new mutant virus?
Mr. President, it may not need the Gambia to ban flights from the UK, because this is our main tourism source market and banning flights will immediately end the tourist season which has just opened.
However, it is important for the health authorities and the Civil Aviation staff to maintain strict vigilance to ensure that all arriving passengers are thoroughly screened before entering the country.
The latest update of the Covid-19 in the world by the time of going to press is 80,546,668 positive cases and 1,762,860 deaths since March to date.
Finally Mr. President, we wish you, your family, and our esteemed readership a happy and prosperous New Year in advance.