Gambia imposes state of emergency, border closure amid surge in COVID-19 cases

The Gambia’s President Adama Barrow. /Photo Courtesy: TWITTER/The Gambia State House

The Gambian government on Wednesday imposed a 21-day state of emergency and nighttime curfew (10pm-5am) in response to a recent surge in coronavirus cases in the country.

A statement from the presidency said that the government had also closed the country’s borders and airspace.

“All land, sea and air borders of Gambia remain closed. Entry and exit of persons into Gambia is suspended except for diplomats, drivers of essential commodities and persons seeking urgent medical attention abroad,” the statement said.

The government, however, said that only cargo and humanitarian/emergency flights evacuating Gambians, diplomats, or humanitarian workers will be allowed. This will be subject to the said persons getting prior approvals among other tough conditions.

“Any passenger destined for Gambia shall be in possession of a valid certificate from points of departure indicating that he or she took a COVID-19 test with a negative result at least 72 hours before boarding. A person who breaches this regulation on the border closures commits an offence and is liable upon conviction to a fine of Five Thousand Gambian Dalasi,” the statement noted.

The government also closed down all places of worship and schools. Only a select number of establishments are allowed to continue operating. These are: grocery stores, markets, banks and all businesses classified as essential.

Moreover, only workers on official COVID-19 duties, ambulances and public officials on essential assignments are exempted.

According to figures from the country’s Ministry of Health, COVID-19 cases in Gambia have surged over 60 percent in the last seven days to nearly 800 cases with 16 deaths so far. This phenomenon is attributed to citizens lowering their guard with respect to protective health measures.

“It is disheartening to realize that several of our loved ones, among them prominent citizens, have succumbed to this deadly ailment while others continue to undergo treatment as others still battle for their lives.”

The government itself has not been spared from the scourge with five officials, including the country’s vice president, testing positive.