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18 Mar 2020 | 02:56 AM UTC

Gambia: Authorities confirm first case of COVID-19 March 17

Ministry of Health confirm first case of COVID-19 in Gambia on March 17 and cancels schools and public gatherings for three weeks; further spread of the virus expected



Gambia's Ministry of Health confirmed the country's first case of coronavirus (COVID-19) on Tuesday, March 17. The individual is a 21-year-old who traveled from the UK on Saturday, March 14, and had transited through Morocco before arriving in Gambia on Sunday, March 15. Subsequently on Monday, March 16, the individual developed a fever and presented herself to Gambia's Medical Research Council.

As a precautionary measure, Gambian President Adama Barrow announced on Tuesday, March 17, that all schools, including universities, will be closed from Wednesday, March 18, for 21 days. Additionally, all public gatherings, including open markets will be suspended immediately for three weeks. All overseas travel by public officials will also be canceled to prevent further spread of the virus. Meanwhile, Gambia's land borders with Senegal continues to remain open as of Tuesday, March 17.

Further international spread of the virus is expected in the near term.


The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.

Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the global outbreak a pandemic.

Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and trouble breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.


Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly, and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone nonessential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.

To reduce the risk of transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:

  • Frequently clean hands by applying an alcohol-based hand rub or washing with soap and water.
  • When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
  • If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, including pneumonia, call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the disease.