By Lamin Njie

President Adama Barrow on Friday warned Gambians against hiding people who pose a threat to public health amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“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,” Mr Barrow said on Friday while addressing the nation on the coronavirus crisis.

President Adama Barrow has also a declared a state of public health emergency rolling out a new set of measures aimed at combating the spread of coronavirus.

They include the closure of ‘non-essential’ businesses as well as the scaling down of work at government departments, agencies and institutions.

The president said: “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.

“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: all non-essential food outlets in all markets and enclosed shopping areas shall be closed; 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; all public places of worship shall be closed; the number of people attending any social gathering, such as weddings, naming ceremonies and funerals shall be restricted to a maximum of ten people; [and] all public transport shall carry half of the total number of passengers they are allowed to transport by law.”