By Omar Bah

The United Democratic Party has urged the Gambia government to be transparent in reporting confirmed cases of the Coronavirus in the country.
Addressing a press conference on the matter yesterday, the UDP leader Ousainu Darboe said: “We can only urge government to be transparent because after all it is in the interest of government to be transparent”.

“Even if there are five hundred cases of corona virus we should say so. That will help our weak health system to get support from those who are endowed with resources both human and material.But if we downplay it, it will cause havoc and we will not get assistance from anybody,” Darboe said.

He continued: “I am sure government will be responsible enough not to sweep anything under the carpet. I have confidence in the health minister and I think the government will not certainly do anything that will compromise the transparency that is needed in this matter”.

Although Gambia has no confirmed any Coronavirus case, Darboe said the government should ensure that there are screening centers all over the country, arguing “We cannot wait for confirmation to act. This is why we suspended all our activities until further notice. We should all stand by and support the government in its efforts to contain this pandemic. We must all adhere to the preventive measures put in place by the relevant authorities. The UDP will work with the government to combat the spread of the virus and fully support and participate in any awareness campaign that the government may embark on,” he added.

The Gambia, he added, needs a proactive, decisive and forward-thinking strategy to deal with the global menace.

“The UDP urges the government to convene a meeting of stakeholders and set up a national emergency response team comprising relevant government departments, local government authorities, and non-governmental organisations, public health partners in the country to asses our health infrastructures’ level of preparedness to address any potential outbreak,” he noted.

He also said the government should implore the public to limit gatherings to decrease the risk of the spread of the virus.
“The UDP encourages the government to implement policies and measures to adequately prepare for the economic consequences of the pandemic. The economic fallout for The Gambia is likely to be severe and long lasting due to our high debt burden and heavy dependence on foreign imports,” he said.

Darboe added: “Since we rely heavily on imported foods and other goods, the UDP is concerned about a potential food shortage and increase in prices of other commodities. We urge the government to have consultations with the business community and other relevant authorities to assess the potential impact on food importation”.

“The UDP through our National Assembly Members, mayors and chairmen of local government authorities, is ready to, and will, stand by and support the government with any interventions and measures to deal with the pandemic and alleviate its economic consequence. We cannot afford to get this one wrong,” he added.

He said he has personally made arrangements for the installation by members of the UDP Youth Wing of 16 hand washing stations in the Greater Banjul Area to promote WHO’s The #SafeHandsChallenge.

Asked whether the move is meant for political gains, Darboe replied: “If we want to score political points we would have been attacking government, but you will not find anything negative in our statement. This is the time we should all be thinking positively”.

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