Information last updated: 22 April, 2020
Sources: TheWorld Bank and WHO (Population over 65 years old, Informal employment, GDP-PPP, Hospital beds).
- Mandatory 14-day quarantine for new arrivals.
- First case was confirmed on 17 March, 2020.
- 22% of cases treated in hospital.
Response set up and capacity
The strategic management of the crisis is led by the Office of the President, while the operational management is led by the Ministry of Health through the COVID-19 Response Team it has set up.
Entities / Organizations
• Office of The President
• Ministry of Health
• Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs
• Ministry of Interior
• United Nations System Organizations (WHO, WFP UNDP, UNFPA, UNICEF, UNAIDS, World Bank, IMF)
• MRC unit The Gambia
• The Gambia Red Cross Society
• Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry
• Jack Ma Foundation
• The Global fund
Mitigating factors - What is being done?
The following measures have been taken by the government in the fight against COVID-19 in The Gambia.
- March 18 (or before): the following measures were implemented:
- Closure of all schools, including universities, madrassas, “daras”, and majlis, for a period of 21 days. The Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education is organizing classes over the TV and radio to keep students engaged and minimize the loss of contact hours during this period.
- Suspension of all public gatherings, including open markets, and religious events.
- 14-day mandatory quarantine in government managed facilities for all arrivals via air and land border entry points (irrespective of nationality) from “hotspot” countries. Representatives of the Ministry of Health confirmed that multiple hotels are used to house those under quarantine, with food, water, and medical care being provided at the expense of the Government of The Gambia.
- All overseas travel by public officials has been suspended until further notice.
- March 20: the Government of The Gambia issues a decree barring admission of non-Gambian travelers who have recently visited 55 COVID-19 “hotspot” countries.
- March 21: the Government of The Gambia announces the closure of airspace and land borders between The Gambia and Senegal, effectively beginning on March 23 for a period of 21 days, as part of the effort to stem the spread of COVID-19.
- March 23: the president promulgated the Essential Commodities Emergency Powers Regulation 2020, in order to curtail the exploitation of the situation for price hiking and hoarding. It sets a price ceiling for basic and essential commodities.
- March 27: the Government of The Gambia declares a seven-day state of public emergency. The declaration orders closure of all non-essential food outlets, markets, public places and places of worship. It also limits the number of people attending social gatherings to a maximum of 10 and orders public transport capacity to be cut by half.
- April 3: the National Assembly concluded a 2-day sitting that reviewed a proposal to extend the state of emergency for a period of 90 days. They agreed on a 45-day extension instead.
Currently (i.e. April 20) there are no restrictions on imports or any tax flexibility policies.
Risks, vulnerabilities, obstacles
- The National Assembly ‘Special Select Committee on the Implementation of the State of Public Emergency Regulations 2020;, which is mandated to liaise with various stakeholders in relation to COVID-19 issues, has identified social distancing as the most critical issue in the fight against the virus. The committee revealed that experts estimate up to 180,000 people may be infected if social distancing rules are not adhered to by the time the virus peaks in June-July. It has also identified the need to equip security personnel with necessary protective gear to help enforce the regulations put forward by the Ministry of Health.
- In terms of food availability, the Committee has stated that the government has taken steps to bar people from smuggling food items out of the country. However, price regulations issued by the government have not been strictly enforced.
- The Ministry of Health revealed that most of the patients testing positive are asymptomatic. As such some of them have gone on to deny having contracted the virus and have spread misinformation about the virus. This is likely to hamper efforts by the health authorities in containing the spread of the virus.
- There is only one COVID-19 testing center in the entire country and this could limit the ability to conduct large-scale testing to quickly identify cases.
- In a country with high unemployment and informal employment rates, where almost half of the population is poor and many live in large multi-generaitonal households, self-isolation and social distancing could prove very challenging to implement. This increases vulnerabilities and makes contact tracing relatively difficult.
Potential actions and demands
- The Government of The Gambia is yet to provide a relief package to mitigate the economic effects of the lockdown on the population. Gambians are calling on the government to come to their rescue in these trying moments.
- Voluntary organizations and philanthropists have been actively engaged in providing food aid, essential sanitary facilities and other basic necessities for the less privileged.
- Human rights groups are calling for support for the vulnerable victims of domestic and gender-based violence, in particular women and girls who are forced to stay home due to the pandemic.
- In the field of education, calls are being made to cater for students in the Arabic (madrassa) and other informal streams of education, who are left out in the TV and radio learning activities organized by the Ministry of Education.
- The Gambia’s Ministry of Health Website
- Regular updates are posted to the Ministry of Health’s and the State House of The Gambia’s official Facebook and twitter Pages.
- The Gambian government has set up a free national hotline for COVID-19 concerns and questions, which can be reached by dialing 1025 within The Gambia.
- Additional information can be found by monitoring Gambian news sources as well as official Gambian government social media pages, statements, and press releases.