Within days after the Gambia registered its first coronavirus case on 17 March 2020, the government declared a state of public emergency. As the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths climbed, it closed the country’s airspace as well as sea and land borders, banned public gatherings, closed schools and universities, and instituted a night curfew to contain the spread of the virus (Darboe, 2020; Xinhua, 2020).
With the support of civil society organizations, philanthropists, and development partners, the government announced plans to mitigate the impact of the pandemic through food relief intended to help 84% of needy households, as well as support for Gambians studying abroad, additional equipment for the health sector, and fertilizer for farmers (Camara, 2020; Jawo, 2020).
On 10 March 2021, President Adama Barrow was first in line as the country launched its COVAX-supported vaccine rollout. The government plans to vaccinate 20% of the population in 2021 and has embarked on a campaign to inform the populace about vaccine safety (Africanews, 2021).
As of 25 April 2021, the country had reported 5,820 cases and 173 deaths due to COVID-19 (World Health Organization, 2021).
A new Afrobarometer survey in the Gambia shows that while a majority of citizens approve of the government’s overall response to the pandemic, they also voice significant concerns, including that the schools should have reopened more quickly and that government assistance to help citizens weather the pandemic was not distributed fairly. Most think that corrupt government officials stole resources intended for the pandemic response.
Most don’t trust the government to ensure that vaccines are safe, say they are unlikely to try to get vaccinated, and think prayer is more effective than a vaccine in preventing COVID- 19 infections.