Gambia imposes curfew as coronavirus cases surge 60% in a week

BANJUL (Reuters) – Gambia, mainland Africa’s smallest country, imposed a three-week curfew on Wednesday after coronavirus cases surged over 60% in the last seven days to nearly 800.

Authorities attributed the rise to people relaxing their guard on protective measures that had so far kept Gambia’s case total the lowest in Africa. Testing has also increased in the country, where the number of deaths is 16.

A 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew will go into effect on Thursday, public gatherings will be banned and markets will have to close by 2 p.m., government spokesman Ebrima Sankareh told the national broadcaster.

He had said earlier in the day that authorities would increase police, paramilitary, marine and immigration presence on its border with Senegal as scores of Senegalese who live in Gambia return from celebrating Eid al-Adha with their wider families. Senegal has recorded over 10,500 cases.

The minister for women’s affairs, children and social welfare, Fatou Kinteh, tested positive on Wednesday for COVID-19, becoming the fourth minister to do so this week.

Vice President Isatou Touray also tested positive on July 29, leading President Adama Barrow to enter self-isolation. The government said on Tuesday the president had tested negative.

The Health Ministry said six people who were confirmed cases were still at large, while two other positive cases had fled from a treatment centre in the capital

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