Gambia has declared a 21-day state of emergency following a surge of confirmed cases of Covid 19, with Petroleum & Energy Minister Fafa Sanyang among a clutch of high-ranking government officials to test positive for the disease.

The emergency declaration comes just four days after President Adama Barrow tested negative for the new coronavirus after going into self-imposed quarantine.

Apart from Sanyang, Vice President Isatou Touray, Finance Minister Mambury Njie, Agriculture Minister Amie Fabureh and traditional Muslim leader Alieu Mboge are among high-profile figures that have tested positive for the virus in recent days.

In a statement issued on 5 August, Barrow said it had become necessary to impose a nighttime curfew and close all borders and airspace to all but flights evacuating Gambians, diplomats, humanitarian workers or those seeking urgent medical attention.

All schools and places of worship have been shut down although a few markets, banks and businesses designated as “essential” can remain open.

Gambia, with a population of just 2.3 million, has recorded 700 cases and 16 fatalities from the coronavirus.

Petronas and Australian junior Far Ltd have been seeking a partner to drill blocks A2 and A5, which Far currently operates in a 50:50 partnership with Petronas, likely aiming to spud the Bambo prospect where Far estimates the S400 sands hold 152 million barrels of oil.