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Gambia-Senegal Southern Border: Coronavirus Screening Becomes Everybody’s Business

Gambian health worker testing the temperature of a man who just crossed from Senegal through Giboroh border

As the coronavirus continues its ravaging impact around the world, people living in a Gambian southern border village as well as passersby, are cooperating with health workers at Giboroh health post to ensure proper screening is done for the prevention of the disease in the country.

Although Gambia has yet to record a case of the virus since its outbreak in China in December, followed by its widespread across the world, including neighboring Senegal, the country declared its commitment to prevent the spread of the virus through effective precautions.

The Chronicle visited Giboroh, a border village which is 53km away from the capital, Banjul on Monday. It’s the first entry point for visitors from Senegal, Guinea Bissau and Conakry, Mali and other sub-regional countries that pass through.

Health workers diluting chloroquine  liquid into water tank for hand-washing

“I’m a keen follower of the radio where I first learnt about this disease. I knew from there how the virus transmits and that’s why it’s necessary to undergo the health test,” Fatou Ceesay, a native of Giboroh told The Chronicle. 

She appreciates the stationing of the health post considering the vulnerability her community is directly exposed to due to its close proximity with other countries. 

“It’s for everybody’s good. Whether one is from this community, Senegal, Guinea Bissau or Guinea Conakry, the act of screening people is significant to all. You cannot stop people from entering the country because Gambia and Senegal are inseparable, but it’s important for us to undergo the regular screening and hand washing.”

The health post is just next to the police and immigration offices as one leaves the country – purposely done to ensure that security would assist health staff for compliance. 

However, it seems that people are taking it even more serious upon themselves. “Since we started the screening process, people have been cooperating with us,” Saikou Camara, one of the four public health workers posted to the border.

According to him, the security which combined the police and immigration, is part of their team to make sure no one goes without being screened. 

As health officials, their work covers screening people with temperature devices while ensuring that everyone washes his or her hands with sanitizers and chloroquine chemical that is diluted in the main water tank.

Inside the quarantine room, Saikou Camara (in brown shirt) with his colleague

“Things have been going smoothly. We have no difficulties since we started. What we are doing is to screen people who are coming into the country according to the case definition that we have for the coronavirus,” Camara told The Chronicle.

In this process, any person they come across with the symptoms will be quarantined as a suspect. 

“We have a quarantine room here where we are to place the suspected people and call the upper level for further examination.”

Impact on businesses

Border communities always serve as business hubs across the world due to intensive engagement of people from different countries. People with a different currency would always change their monies to suit the country they are entering.

“I can tell you that things are not very easy with us because to be frank, even to receive CFA franc currency notes from people we are not much comfortable and that hinders our business,” John Mendy, a shopkeeper near the border told The Chronicle. 

“We always have a divided mind before finally taking the money, but as businessmen, we have to take it. We cannot refuse taking the CFA Franc as well as the Euro and the US dollar currencies.”

Women who arrived at the border undergoing hand-washing

He too appreciates the work of the heath workers who are posted to the ground, but made further appeals to the government.

“My only concern is that this border will close around 10pm and it’s always dark around here. It’s just my feeling that it’s a possibility that some people could avoid being screened and enter the country which could have consequences.   

“Government should help fix the streetlights because most of the lights are not yet functional. That will help the health workers and us as well so that we can identify who is coming even if the person is 200 meters away,” he told The Chronicle.

However, Saikou states that: “People who come in here are all screened before the border closes and there is no such possibility that somebody could pass without our notice.” 

Kemo Jallow, another shopkeeper, said he has noticed that his gains are dwindling, attributing it to the less flow of movement of people in terms of coming in and out. 

“I have realized that people’s movement around his has become minimal. I noticed this because I’m not receiving as many buyers as I used to have before the outbreak of coronavirus,” Jallow told The Chronicle. 

Since its outbreak, statistics show that 114,231 people are infected by the virus, recording 4,005 deaths while 62,834 people have recovered around the world, according to a live update on https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/.

Egypt, Algeria, South Africa, Tunisia, Senegal, Morocco, Nigeria, Cameroon and Togo are so far the only African countries that have detected the virus. The Gambia’s close neighbor, Senegal, initially had four cases before declaring the recovery of one person. 

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