Citizens of The Gambia have thronged out to participate in the country’s presidential election.
However, a majority of them failed to comply with COVID-19 safety guides.
The election process commenced by 8 a.m. in many polling stations in the country.
Many voters were seen crowded and without face masks in some polling stations visited by PREMIUM TIMES on Saturday morning.
Although most party agents wore face masks, a few were seen without one.
“I have one but I’m not using it for personal reasons,” says Alhusainey Jallow, a voter on queue in Latrikunda German.
In a recent interview, the Head of Communications at the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), Pa Makam Khan, told journalists the commission had intensified election day COVID-19 guide.
“Of course we know elections usually attract a lot of crowd during voter’s registration, campaign and voting. But as a Commission… we do messages on COVID-19, that is we inform voters on how to protect themselves and others from COVID-19,” he said.
The IEC further stated that it would work with the Ministry of Health to ensure compliance with COVID-19 protocols of hand washing, use of face masks, social distancing and use of hand sanitisers on election day.
However, these protocols were rarely manifested on Saturday.
In one of the polling stations in Latrikunda German, a PREMIUM TIMES reporter observed that most of the voters who arrived early wore face masks.
One of them, Johnson Maldine, said the masks were provided by some party agents.
“They are the ones that gave us the face masks, ” she said, referring to party observers. “It’s for our protection and they did well for that,” she added.
Some compliance in Banjul
In Banjul, the country’s capital, a substantial number of people were seen wearing masks on queues, compared to other areas.
At the 22nd July Square polling station in Banjul, a handwashing station, provided by the Red Cross, was stationed at the entrance.
“We are here for two reasons; first for emergency response and secondly to make sure people abide by COVID-19 protocols,” a Red Cross official who doesn’t want to be named for lack of authority to speak to journalists said. “We spoke to some (about wearing of face masks) but they said this is their constitutional right. So, we can only do as much as possible,” he added.
Face masks are sold at different entrances of many polling stations in Banjul for 10 Dalasi (about 0.20% dollars).
Generally, the elections have been peaceful, orderly and with a significant turnout of voters.
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