The Gambia government has clarified the businesses it deemed essentials to remain open during the country’s 21-days emergency lockdown to stop the spread of the deadly coronavirus. 

Last Friday President Barrow ordered a nationwide lockdown and that only essential services in the private sector will continue to operate.   

“These include services provided by banks, petrol stations, traders and vendors in food and basic commodities in the markets, supermarkets and corner-shops,” the president said in his address to the nation.

However many businesses including petty traders of non food items have complained of the effects of the lockdown on their livelihoods. While others such as gyms and sport shops say they are providing “vital services” during the lockdown. 

The government spokesman in a press release dated April 1 clarified that: 

“all forms of bars, casinos and gaming parlours, cinemas and video clubs, event halls, gymnasia, stadia, night clubs, public swimming pools, sporting areas, are deemed ‘Non-Essential’ and shall remain closed to the public.

“Equally, all public gatherings like ‘Ataya rendezvous’ and street gatherings of more than five people are strictly prohibited.

“Restaurants shall remain open for the singular purpose of selling food for takeway services. Restaurant owners or operators shall ensure that a minimum distance of at least two metres between any two persons in the restaurant ordering ‘take away food’ is maintained.

“Salons or barber shops shall remain open in so far as they are located outside of markets. However, a salon or barber shop owner or operator shall ensure that not more than two (2) persons are present within the premises of his or her business at any given time.

“Significantly, all non-food outlets in all markets throughout The Gambia and within one hundred metre radius of a market shall be closed to the public for business. Such outlets can only operate some 100 metres outside market places throughout the country and are equally obliged to practice social distancing, serving one customer at a time and install hand washing stations for their customers and observe the highest standards of hygiene at all times.

“Food vendors and traders of any food products inside the markets shall open for business between the hours of 6am to 2pm each day to allow for local authorities to cleanse the premises for the following market day. 

“This does not include local ‘chere’, hot food, vegetable and fruit vendors who normally operate in the evenings across various communities. They are however, equally obliged to follow all prescribed hygiene precautions and keep away from inside markets after the close of business.

“All food traders on temporary stalls in a market shall maintain a minimum distance of two metres between any two stalls.

“Crucially, all traders operating in a market shall have hygiene materials available for use by them and their customers and shall cleanse their places of business with water and disinfectants at the close of daily business.

“By extension, the owners of shops located in areas with more than five (5) interlinked shops shall ensure that there is a maximum of two persons in every shop.

“For the enforcement of these regulations, the Local Government Authorities in collaboration with State Security Services (The Police, PIU, and Intelligence Services) shall designate their officers as ‘Inspectors’ and enforce the law to the letter.

“An Inspector, in clearly identifiable uniform or with official identification documents for plain clothes or undercover assignment, shall have the power, without prior notice and at any time, to close any non-food business in the markets. 

“Inspectors could enter and inspect any business premises in the occupation or under the control or possession of a trader in the market, and do any other duty necessary or expedient for the proper discharge of their functions under these Emergency Regulations.

“Accordingly, a person shall not obstruct an Inspector in the exercise of his or her functions.

“Commercial public transportation is restricted. In this respect, a commercial public transport driver shall limit the number of passengers to not more than half his vehicle’s capacity. 

“The driver shall cleanse and disinfect his or her vehicle at the beginning and close of business every work day. A driver of a four-seater commercial vehicle shall carry a maximum of three passengers only.

“In the same vein, a driver of a vehicle carrying commercial goods shall carry only one passenger in the vehicle cabin. Commercial motorists are cautioned not to inflate or increase fares lest they face severe consequences.

“For private vehicles, a driver shall limit the number of passengers to half the usual capacity of the vehicle. A rider of a motor cycle shall not carry any passenger on his or her motorcycle except where that motorcycle is designed to perform ambulatory services which are very common in the provinces.

“As it relates to Garages and Car Parks, the Local Government Authorities of every Region shall ensure that public garages, car parks, bus depots and transport offices are cleansed and disinfected at least twice daily. 

“They shall be fitted with hand washing stations in and around the areas. The controllers of public garages or commercial vehicles pick-up areas shall ensure that only the drivers of commercial vehicles and their apprentices are allowed within or around a garage or a pick-up area.

“As it relates to marine transportation, all ferries and commercial boat operators shall ensure that they strictly operate from 6a.m to 7p.m daily except under medical emergencies. 

“The ferries should carry only half of the capacity allowed on each trip and provide protective gears to the crew and essential ferry staff while disinfecting their boats after each trip. 

“The waiting area at all ferry terminals must be regularly disinfected and restricted to only the elderly and the differently-abled persons. Terminal operators shall provide hand washing facilities to all passengers before they board the ferries. Passengers should be sensitized on basic personal hygiene and social distancing as per the advice of the Health Ministry.

Penalties For Offenders

“Members of the public are urged to take these regulations very seriously as they are intended to curb the Covid:19 Viral Pandemic ravaging the world and therefore, carry severe penalties for offenders. A person who contravenes these Regulations commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a very heavy fine.

“These regulations shall subsist until the end of the Proclamation of a State of Public Emergency issued on 26th March, 2020.

The Gambia Government wishes to thank the people for their understanding and encourage them to comply with the regulations governing the State of Public Emergency as we mobilise our combined national efforts towards the eventual defeat of COVID-19.”

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