As COVID-19 wreak havoc in The Gambia, opinions are rife and emotions high as to how and why did we get to our current predicament. Here are my two bututs regarding our current COVID-19 situation.
1.We all have responsibilities to play in the fight of the pandemic. In all honesty, most of us have failed in one way or the other in our responsibilities. Therefore, the blame doesn’t lie solely on the government but to all of us to some extent.
Many Gambians never took this pandemic seriously and a great number don’t believe its existence up to this day. People are going about their normal business as if nothing happens. People were conducting naming ceremonies, wedding ceremonies, birthday parties; even among frontline healthcare workers. One such example is the Medical Doctor at MRC who organized a wedding party and there was a cluster of infection from that party.
Others still hold onto this belief that it is all politics. Declaring a state of emergency without enforcement of lockdown measures with the majority of the people not giving a toss is indeed useless.
It is unfortunate but the only way some Gambians will take this pandemic with the seriousness it deserves is when they see people dropping dead in the streets. This is the reality.
2. We were all here when some political parties were doing their rallies as if nothing is happening in the country. How can the general public behave responsibly when their party leaders who should lead by examples are behaving so recklessly by conducting rallies?
3. The food relief package was uncoordinated and chaotic. There are still some areas especially in the provinces that haven’t received any food relief. My hometown is an example. A lot of discrepancies going on.
4. The government should also be held wholly responsible for misappropriating the COVID-19 funds. So much importance was given to quarantine and so much money spent on only that strategy like if it is the most important aspect of it all.
Some people coming home took this opportunity to travel to the country since they are not paying for their own quarantine. I cannot still understand how a low-income country like The Gambia was paying for people’s quarantine costs when others with a stronger economy like Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, etc. subject travellers to pay for their own quarantine. This would have served as a deterrent for travellers not to come home hence reducing the number of imported cases.
Frontline health workers were inadequately and lately remunerated and demoralized. A committee to track all COVID-19 funds should have been instituted first hand. The Ministry of Finance should not have been made the jurors and executioners at the same time. Finance ministry is responsible for handling, executing and tracking funds. How comes? Unfortunately, now funds are running out and things are getting worst.
5. The solution now is to enforce the lockdown measures fully but how can that too be achieved with many living from hand to mouth. I will not advocate for the army to be redeployed in the street to enforce lockdown measures. Our history with them is not pleasant. If possible, provide the police with the necessary training and gears to enforce the lockdown measures without rights violations.
6. Do not try the idea of sending asymptomatic patients to stay at home and self-isolate. We all know about our cultural context. It won’t happen even if others want to, it is impossible here. Keep all positive cases in treatment centres until they turn out negative to reduce the rate of transmission.
7. Use designated places as treatment and quarantine centres. Some private health facilities are closing down due to COVID-19. Make the best use of them. The Health Minister can use the health emergency power act to identify and use places for such purposes. Use the School of Nursing and Midwifery in Banjul for example, as quarantine centre.
8. Provision of temporary structures for treatment and quarantine centres. Such structures can include makeshift tents. The tent used by UTG during convocation ceremonies can serve this purpose.
9. Provision of mass testing especially in Region I (Greater Banjul and KMC) and Region II (Western Region).
It will get better after its peak. We can learn from our mistakes to do better. Let’s put all hands on deck to defeat COVID-19.
By a senior healthcare worker