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The Gambia’s Effective Management of Its Corona Virus Experience: Ready To Spring Back Into Action After The PandemicBy *Malick Jeng, The Gambia Tourism Board
One country in Africa that appears to be doing extremely well in managing its Corona virus experience is The Gambia, the smallest nation on the continent and incidentally a very popular holiday destination for British and Scandinavian holiday makers.
According to the World Health Organisation, as of 1st June, The Gambia had registered 25 cases of Covid-19 with one death. This put The Gambia in number 4 in terms of the limited number of cases on the continent, following on Lesotho (2) Seychelles (11), and Namibia (24)
The Gambia's only fatality for Covid-19 so far was a 70 year-old diabetic Bangladeshi Islamic Preacher who entered the country from Senegal on 17th March and died five days later.
Like most countries, Covid-19 has hit the Gambia hard economically. The pandemic came at the peak of the country's important tourist season when virtually all the hotels were full with European tourists. On the 23rd March, the country closed its airspace and land borders with its only neighbour, Senegal, to prevent a further spread of the disease. At about the same time, most European countries issued advisories asking their nationals abroad to return home. Hampshire-based Serenity Holidays, which trades in the destination as “The Gambia Experience” and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office organised several repatriation flights to fly back British tourists stranded in the destination.
The Gambian authorities consequently ordered the closure of all the country’s hotels which were at the time buzzing with holidaymakers. This automatically rendered jobless the hundreds of thousands of Gambians who work in the tourism industry.
Like in all other countries the preventive measures imposed, including social distancing, hit other sectors of the economy. In response to expected difficulties that these measures would cause, the government immediately designed a plan to help minimize the hardship on the population. Government allocated 500 billion Dalasi (equivalent to £8.3 million) in the fight against Covid-19. On 26th April, the government allocated a further 734 million dalasi (about £12.2 million) to kick-start a food assistance programme that provided foodstuff, including rice, sugar and cooking oil to the population. The local Chamber of Commerce contributed 20 million dalasi (£333,000) and the international donor community also stepped in to support the initiative with the World Bank providing $10.million, the International Monetary $23 million and the European Union allocating Euro €9 million.
The country’s Ministry of Health reports that there are only two active cases out of the total 17 positive cases declared. Ministry officials are maintaining a very active contact tracing programme and on 3rd and 4th May, they launched a free mass testing programme in a town where two people have tested positive.
The Gambia relies heavily on tourism and the authorities are keen to ensure that by the time the winter season reopens in October, the country would be rid of the Corona virus to allow European holidaymakers to the holiday paradise called The Smiling Coast of Africa.
For further information:
Tourism Destination Manager – UK
Tel: +44 (0)7448 685 681