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Gambia: Drop in COVID-19 Cases, Public Compliance Pay Dividends

The Gambia has recently been reporting a lower number of coronavirus cases daily, as compared to a fortnight ago. The government’s health authorities especially officials of Public Health Services have attributed the curb to the public’s compliance to the health guidelines.

The last highest number of confirmed infections was 101 cases which was tested positive of Covid19 out of 379, reported in the 126th national situational report dated 22nd and 23rd August. It mentioned 3 coronavirus related deaths as well, the highest fatality from that date. Since then, no national daily record reached 100 positive cases of Covid19, even though the numbers have been inconsistent.

Table showing inconsistent slowdown of COVID-19 cases in Gambia between August 24 and September 1st. The trend continues to Sept. 6th and the authorities linked the dropping to public compliance to health regulations and low testing.

The Director of Public Health Services who is leading the frontline workers in the country, Dr. Buba Manjang credited the curb to the public for its compliance. “Our problem is the general public. If they complied with us, the cases will continue to go down. You can see when everybody started effectively using masks, we see the impact,” he told The Chronicle. “So, people should continue listening to health workers and follow the WHO guidelines. With that, we believe we will be able to get the cases going down by the help of Allah.”

Dr. Manjang said had people complied with health guidelines from the beginning of the pandemic without denials, the situation would not have worsened to this level. “Some people were saying this is just a game. Others were throwing accusations that people were looking for money. But when people realized that there was an increase in the number of cases, and some of those people who were living in denial started having the virus, some of them even died, people realized that all that the health authorities and WHO have been saying are true and they started complying.”

     Dr. Buba Manjang

Dr Manjang thanked the people for the cooperation, expressing optimism that if the trend of mask-wearing continues, the case will further go down. “But if people get back to not complying with the rules including wearing masks and observing the curfew, it becomes a problem. If they continue complying as they are doing now, we are going to continue seeing a drop in cases.”

Manjang said curfew is very good because nightclubs’ activities that gather a lot of people together have been suspended. “I know the difference it makes because I used to patrol at night. But now, the only people I will see around midnight is the police and a few people who violated the rules.”

Figure 1 Source Ministry of Health Situation Reports Chart showing the Number of Daily Covid 19 Positive Cases and Number of Daily Tests Conducted

He advised that people should only when necessary while practicing the social distancing rule and regular hand-washing with sanitizers. The Director of Public Health Services also discussed the new strategy they use for the travelers coming into the country, which includes self-quarantine and self-isolation if a particular case is confirmed positive. In the new strategy, people travelling into the country must have to produce their COVID-19 test result which must have been conducted within 72 hours and must be negative.

“If you come with that, we will allow you to go for home isolation. You will be monitored because details are taken and health workers are coming to check whether you’re observing home isolation rules or protocols.” He said the people who come to the country without the tested result will be taken to quarantine which the person will be responsible for the cost, and not the government.

However, a letter emanated from the Cabinet Sub-Committee on COVID-19 directed to the Gambia Tourism Board informed that travelers will no longer be subjected to quarantine rule if they tender negative test results at the airport. This has come following the government’s decision to open tourism season in October.

The Director of Health Promotion and Education Modou Njai has also attributed the case reduction recently to public compliance to the guidelines. “One can…conclude that people are now adhering to public health emergency regulations and also to the precautionary measures. You can see when people are going out now, they have face masks on them and that’s also encouraging.”

However, he also blamed low public turnout for testing even though the ministry has scaled up its testing centres. “One of the factors responsible for the drop in cases is that we are having a low number of people who are undergoing testing. Had it been people have been coming in their numbers, that would have shown as to whether we are dropping cases or not.”

     Modou Njai

Njai said the country’s test rate remains low as it is around 16 percent. “What we are campaigning is to encourage people to go for testing and that’s why we are also scaling up testing centres to get more people to be tested.”

The Gambia has so far registered 3,197 CASES, 99 deaths, 1,315 recoveries.

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