I am ringing the alarm bells loud and louder. I just returned from a trek up to the  Farafenni Border Post Health Intervention Unit, Via Bwiam Hospital, Soma Customs and Police Posts and the Farafenni Hospital. My Mission was to sensitive and support efforts in the fight against the coronavirus.

I am not sabotaging or blaming anyone here. I am very concerned that the threat of the coronavirus to the country is not being given the attention it deserves. My observation is that none of the places I visited seems ready to handle a pandemic. 

Since the virus is already in the country, experts warned that we have to make serious adjustments and restrictions to contain the virus. I do not think we have the equipment, the preparedness, the leadership, nor the capability to handle a pandemic in this country. The attitude at best is a Best laissez faire about the threat looming in this country. People are still going on as if there is no looming pandemic in the country. 

For a start, most of the security personnel I encountered had no protective gear. As a leader (Commander) I will not allow my people to go out there without proper equipment to protect themselves first before protecting the public. 

We need our security forces to be protected. They are our first line of defence. They should be well equipped to do their job. Under the circumstances these men and women should tell their bosses to protect them. They are overexposed and few of them expressed that to us and asked for our support. They need protective gear for them to do their jobs properly. 

The situation is similar at the hospitals with the health workers. I did not see any health worker with protective gear at the hospitals visited. We have to equip our health workers for them to be able to keep us well. 

If anyone with the virus visits our health facilities our health workers and all of us will be exposed. We need to protect them immediately and their environment. There are water points for people to wash their hands before entering the hospitals. Some used it others did not. 

I have entered the hospitals with a team and none of us was asked nor used the hand wash stations. Everyone should be treated the same here. Everyone should wash their hands before entering the hospitals without exception. This virus does not discriminate. 

The Health Intervention Unit at the Border Post is ill equipped and there is no ambulance there to evacuate anyone suspected of having the virus. They too do not have proper equipment to protect themselves. There are no oxygen, no drips or any equipment except a temperature gun to check the temperature of travellers and a bed in an air conditioned room. The personnel there did not have protective gear and did not show any sense of an emergency. 

It is not sabotaging or blaming anyone here. This virus poses a big threat to all of us. I visited a Dara to sensitise the Serigns and Almudis. The Almudis are a big threat to themselves and the public. They are out on the streets touching cars, receiving food and cash from different people. Then they go and congregate in a small  environment to learn and pray. We need to protect them. 

I saw people drinking Attaya and sharing glasses at every place I visited including at the Health Intervention Station. We need to sensitise people of the dangers this poses with the virus around. 

The bells I am ringing here is for the protection of all of us. When I returned home from the trek and looked at the pictures I took. I got scared. I knew I have taken a big risk in exposing myself to this virus. Unless we all treat this as a serious national treat we would all lose in the end. 

We cannot continue living as if this virus does not exist or it not cause havoc in this country. If we continue with the ways I see out there and the attitude I see, I am afraid to say we are going to lose a lot of people from this virus.

The president is the highest authority in this country, I urge him to take up responsibility and lead us in these perilous times to come. This virus does not discriminate or recognise status or prestige. We would all be exposed and regardless of status we will all suffer. 

It is an opportunity to change our attitudes towards what needs to be done to protect this country. We should treat this as a national emergency and the leaders in this country should mobilise all resources to tackle this menace we are faced with.

We have the resources and very capable human capital to lead on this. We have health expert and people available that have worked in pandemic situations. We should tap on their expertise to lead us through these difficult times. Difficult times requires difficult measures.

The leadership in this country must make people adhere to the difficult measures required to get us through. We should learn from what has  been happening around the world. We all should come together to be successful in this fight against coronavirus.

It is not a time to politicise or regionalise the process. No pointing of finger or blame game. Let us utilise our resources to survive. Let us take this opportunity to set standards. Standards for food, standards for security, standards for health, standard for  coordination and management of national issues.

Leaders in this country have to set up to save this country. These are serious times and we need serious leaders to lead us through. Leaders in both the public and private sectors.

The Alarm bells are ringing. We need to quiet them. Let Us come together and save our nation. This is a national emergency. Let us treat it as one. And adhere to W.H.O and other nations preventive measures. The long we wait, the more precarious the situation gets for The Gambia.

By Bye Malleh Wadda 

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