BANJUL, Gambia

Gambian President Adama Barrow declared a state of emergency Wednesday, shutting his country’s borders and airspace amid a rise in coronavirus cases. 

COVID-19 cases in Gambia have surged over 60% in the last seven days to nearly 800, a trajectory he said is “worrisome.” The country has registered 16 coronavirus deaths so far.

Barrow also imposed a night curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. starting Thursday until Aug. 26, the same time the state of emergency is expected to last.

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

“Only cargo and humanitarian flights bringing Gambians home, diplomats, or humanitarian workers will be allowed, subject to them seeking and obtaining prior approvals among other stringent 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 [about US$96].”

The declaration also shut all houses of worship. Only persons on official COVID-19 duties, ambulances and public officials on essential assignments are exempted.

Schools are also declared closed. Grocery stores, markets, banks and all essential businesses remain open.

Since early July, over 40 healthcare workers in Gambia have tested positive for COVID-19, weakening the country’s response efforts. In the past week, four cabinet ministers including the country’s vice president tested positive. The figure has now risen to five as Minister for Women’s Affairs, Children and Social Welfare Fatou Kinteh also tested positive for the virus.

“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,” said the president in a statement.

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