By Alagie Manneh
The spokesman of the Serekunda Market has warned that the new emergency regulations governing markets are “killing businesses,” and imperiling livelihoods.
Sulayman Dampha said unless government comes up with a solution, business operators and vendors may disregard the new orders.
The new amendments to the State of Emergency Powers Regulations governing open markets and shopping areas was announced last week.
It called on all persons trading in food products in Gambian markets to open for business between 6am and 1pm each day, and for all those trading in non-food products to open between 2pm and 6pm daily.
“A union governing all markets in the country met and condemned this decision by the government as unacceptable. This has damaged and affected all businesses. No one is happy about the situation,” Dampha chastised.
He said the government should have consulted them before making such decisions.
“For example, the meat sellers go to Abuko to buy their meat and sometimes they arrive at the market at around 11am. Less than two hours, they are ordered to close down. Does that sound reasonable?” he asked.
He said the only way to avoid “killing” Gambian businesses is for government to allow all businesses to open and close up at the same time.
“From here Serekunda to Brikama to all markets across the country, this is our appeal,” he added.
Asked if the markets will not become a breeding ground for Covid-19 infections if government relaxes the regulations, Mr Dampha said market crowds have been limited, arguing that the virus spreads faster in other places.
“I was on the Banjul-Barra ferries yesterday and they were so crowded that one hardly finds space to breathe. The ferries are far busier than the markets, so if the markets are controlled, the ferries should be.”
He said the government was shouting “health first” yet rendered no support to Gambian markets since the outbreak. “Not even a bucket was bought,” he said.
He said at the moment, the Serekunda Market Committee has not joined the chorus to flout the new regulations, but said it could be forced to at some point, with the advent of Ramadan.