By Nelson Manneh
The Ministry of Health has on Friday 7th January 2022 informed the public that Genomic sequencing of positive COVID-19 test results from The Gambia has identified 26 cases with the Omicron variant of the Corona virus, 13 of whom are outgoing travellers.
The Health authorities said the samples were collected between the 22nd and 28th of December 2021 and the results confirm the presence of the highly contagious Omicron Variant in the country and thus underscores the need for the public to consider healthy choices this holiday season to protect themselves and their loved ones.
The Omicron variant of COVID-19 has been called a variant of concern by the World Health Organization based on the evidence that it has several mutations. “New variants like Omicron are a reminder that the COVID-19 pandemic is far from being over. As a result of the presence of this new variant, the testing and quarantine protocol is thus updated with effect from 17th January, 2022,” the statement of the ministry asserted.
The Health Ministry said for passengers coming into the Gambia the following categories exist: Category I: Fully vaccinated Passengers: Passengers who have been fully vaccinated do not need a PCR test to enter into The Gambia. Such travellers are advised on self-monitored isolation and avail themselves to the testing centres for RDT test in case they notice any signs and symptoms of COVID-19 or could call 1025 for enquiry.
However, if such individuals have signs or symptoms similar to those of COVID-19, they will be required to undergo Rapid Diagnostic Test for COVID-19 at the airport upon arrival.
This category according to the health authorities does not apply to hot spot countries for the Omicron variant who need further screening as given in category III.
Category II: Non Vaccinated or Partially Vaccinated individuals: All these individuals will need a negative PCR test report valid within 72hrs for entry into the country. Passengers from countries considered as hotspot for the Delta Variant will, in addition, undergo a Rapid Diagnostic Test at the Airport upon arrival. The list of such countries will be periodically updated.
The list of Delta Variant hotspot countries based on the Ministry’s national guidelines are as follows:
LIST OF COUNTRIES
Canada United Kingdom
France South Africa
Category III: For passengers from hotspot countries for the Omicron variant,
Fully vaccinated Passengers: Passengers who have been fully vaccinated need to show proof of full vaccination status and do not require PCR test to enter The Gambia, such travellers will be tested upon arrival using RDT and this test will be free of charge and the results could be given on the spot or sent online.
However, the travellers are advised on self-monitored isolation and avail themselves to the testing centres for PCR test should in case they notice any signs and symptoms of COVID-19 or could call 1025 for enquiry.
Non Vaccinated or Partially Vaccinated individuals: Passengers from countries considered as Hotspot for the Omicron variant will need proof of a negative PCR test report valid within 72hrs for entry into the country. In addition, all travellers in this category will be tested with RDT and those positive will be taken to the quarantine centre at their own cost or isolated at their booked hotel for PCR Test to be conducted by the mobile laboratory team. Such travellers will remain under isolation until the result come out. The list of such countries will be periodically updated.
The list of Omicron variant Hotspot countries based on the Ministry’s national guidelines are as follows:
LIST OF COUNTRIES
Australia Germany United Kingdom
Angola Hong Kong South Africa Zambia
Botswana Lesotho Zimbabwe
Canada Malawi Mozambique
Category IV: Children: Children under 18 years and from hotspot countries for both Delta and Omicron Variants are allowed to travel to The Gambia and upon arrival will be tested at the airport using RDT.
“The public is informed that all outgoing passengers from The Gambia will be required to adhere to COVID-19 testing requirement for the destination countries upon confirmation by the Port Health Officers or airline representatives as might be published,” the statement indicated.
For the general population, the Ministry of Health is soliciting the continuous support and cooperation of the public in its efforts to contain COVID-19 in the country.
Any member of the public who has symptoms similar to that of COVID-19 can call 1025 for enquiry. The general public is advised to reduce the risk of exposure to the virus by: Regularly wearing a mask that covers your nose and mouth. Ensuring that people’s hands are clean when putting on and removing your mask, keeping a physical distance of at least 1 metre from others and avoiding poorly ventilated or crowded spaces among others.