May 19, 2020, 1:40 PM
In early March 2020, The Gambia Government declared a state of public health emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has hit country just as it has on the rest of the World.
As you know, as soon as the first case appeared on 2 March, the Government put in place a strategy for the quota of the disease, which we adjusted as it evolved.
Thus, taking into account the risk of public calamity linked to the pandemic, on 23 March I declared a state of emergency with a curfew throughout the country.
More than two months later, and despite the rate of progression of the disease, our health system has been resilient in the face of a pathology yet unprecedented and particularly contagious.
We owe it above all to the remarkable skill and courage of our health care staff. The poignant words of cured patients are the best testimonies.
I renew our warm thanks and deep gratitude to the medical, paramedic and support staff, all engaged day and night in a risky battle against a vicious illness, still largely unknown.
That is why I am particularly keen on the protection of health workers. Special security measures will have to be installed everywhere to avoid contamination.
I congratulate the teams of the Ministry of Health and Social Action and all the other State Services mobilized in the fight.
I salute and encourage our Defence and Security Forces deployed throughout the country to ensure the implementation of the measures enacted under the state of emergency.
I thank our spiritual guides, the leaders of religious associations of all faiths, the customary authorities, as well as the citizen movements that support and facilitate the action of the State in the response to COVID-19.
I pray for the rest of the souls of our dead from COVID-19, from here and from the diaspora. I offer our heartfelt condolences to their grieving families.
Each bereavement affects us deeply, especially when the pain of distance is compounded by the pain of distance, when death occurs abroad.
Thus, taking into account the high demand for the repatriation of bodies of our compatriots who died from COVID-19 abroad, and on the basis of the reasoned opinions we have received with regard to sanitary conditions, it will now be possible to carry out these repatriations.
I have therefore instructed the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Senegalese of the Exterior, in connection with the Minister of Health and Social Action, to facilitate repatriation, for families who wish, in accordance with the required sanitary conditions.
To the patients and asymptomatic carriers of the virus, I extend our fervent wishes for a speedy recovery.
I urge each and every one of us to avoid stigmatizing the sick. This stigma is not acceptable. COVID-19, I recall, is not one of those so-called shameful diseases. Moreover, no one is safe from such a contagious virus. So let everyone adopt a dignified and respectful attitude towards their neighbour.
My fellow citizens
As soon as the pandemic began in our country, I have instructed the Government to define and implement a strategy adapted to our economic, social and cultural realities.
That is why, instead of containment, we have opted for restrictive measures to limit the circulation of the virus.
Thanks to these measures, we were able to cut the transmission chain by imported route and keep the disease still under control, despite its rate of progression. Each and every one of you has contributed to this performance through your sacrifices and efforts.
To date, our country has 1886 positive cases, 715 of which have been cured and 19 have died. We currently have 1,151 patients in our health facilities under treatment. 7182 contacts are monitored by The Health Services.
The epidemiological map shows that of the 45 departments, 22 do not have any cases of COVID-19. We must welcome this and be more vigilant.
Today, after two months of testing, we must calmly adapt our strategy, taking into account, once again, our daily experience. I consulted a multidisciplinary team of eminent national experts.
Their careful analyses and evaluations show that, at best, cases, that is, if we continue to implement the measures enacted, COVID-19 will continue to circulate in the country until August or even September.
These projections show that the time should not be for relaxation, but for adaptation.
More than ever, the state will therefore continue to ensure the implementation of the quota measures for the disease.
But more than ever, the responsibility of each and every one of us is engaged.
In this new phase which will last, not a few weeks, but at least three to four months, we must now learn to live in the presence of the virus, by adapting our individual and collective behavior to the evolution of the pandemic.
Consequently, we must adapt our strategy in order to carry out our essential activities and support our economy, while ensuring the preservation of our health and that of the community.
In light of these considerations, I have decided to relax the conditions of the state of emergency as follows:
➢ From Tuesday 12 May 2020, the curfew hours will be from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., instead of 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. The office hours are changed from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
➢ Markets and other businesses that were subject to specific opening days will be open 6 days and will remain closed on a day dedicated to cleaning. This day will be determined by the competent authority according to local contingencies.
➢ The weekly markets, commonly called loumas, will be reopened, but within the limits of each Department.
The places of worship will also be reopened. The Minister of the Interior, in relation to the Minister of Health and Social Action, will initiate the necessary consultations for this purpose with spiritual guides and Religious Associations, to agree on terms and conditions.
As for the school, lessons will resume on June 2 for the exam classes, that is to say for the CM2, Third and Terminal classes; or 551,000 students, from the public and private sectors, out of the 3,500,000. The school year and the exam calendar will be adapted accordingly.
Pupils from other classes will continue to take lessons from the Learning at Home device, available on its television, radio and digital platforms.
With regard to the University, the Minister in charge of Higher Education will continue to consult with the various academies to organize distance learning.
The Government will take special care to ensure that attendance at places of worship, schools and other public spaces, markets, and other businesses, including restaurants, strictly obey physical distancing measures and barrier gestures; including the compulsory wearing of a mask and hand washing.
Compliance with these conditions is essential everywhere to avoid the risk of contamination. The Government will monitor this closely and, if necessary, take all appropriate measures to prevent the spread of the virus.
Already, 10 million masks have been produced locally. They will be distributed in schools, places of worship, markets and public transport.
Together, each playing their role fully, we will succeed in the challenge of gradually revitalizing national life.
In the same vein, with the wintering season ahead, I have asked the Government to provide the flexibility necessary for public transport, in order to allow agricultural workers to reach their localities.
This is the place for me to thank our religious guides, Muslims and Christians, for their full participation in our common fight against COVID-19. I count on their continued support for the implementation of accommodation in this new phase that we are embarking on.
I thank the parents of pupils, teachers, supervisors and social partners. All remain active in the management of this major crisis which also affects the school.
I also thank the private sector and workers’ unions for their resilience in this very special context.
My dear compatriots,
As we face an unprecedented crisis, I am pleased to see that far from giving in to resignation, we draw daily from the creative genius of our people the resources necessary for our common resilience.
I am thinking of all these local initiatives that are flourishing in the face of COVID-19. I am thinking of the tailors who make masks, the students, teachers and researchers who make hydro-alcoholic gels, who invent robots, artificial respirators and hand washing machines. I am thinking of the designers of electronic commerce platforms and the deliverers who offer their services to prevent us from making trips that are conducive to the risk of contamination.
All these local skills and know-how speak to us, to tell us that nothing can exhaust the mental strength of a people determined to face trials and master their destiny.
In the recovery plan for the national economy, post COVID-19, I firmly intend to support all these positive energies and all these creative intelligences, because they carry the generous promises of a more modern and more future prosperous.
So let us remain mobilized and confident, my dear fellow citizens. Let us remain mobilized, united and united to pave the way for the future; that of endurance and success at the end of the effort.
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