Election Day: Voters Not Observing COVID-19 Prevention Measures

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By Nelson Manneh 

Amid a global pandemic in this year’s presidential election for the citizens of The Gambia, regulations outlined and/or recommended by health experts are being shunned during election day in several polling stations by the electorates.

It’s Saturday 4th December, 2021 and Gambians are voting for the first time after the end of a 22-year-rule of former dictator, Yahya Jammeh.

This reporter visited five polling stations: Pirang village (2) and Faraba Bantang (3), in Kombo East, West Coast Region. It was observed that a few voters on the queue wear facemasks. Social distancing is absent.

All the polling staff at the aforesaid stations wore their facemasks but social distancing- one-meter space- was not observed. The polling staff and the party agents sit next to one another without observing any form of social distancing. 

Meanwhile, in other polling stations, Red Cross volunteers could be seen moving around with their hand sanitizers urging voters to sanitize their hands after casting their votes. 

Omar Manga, one of the Red Cross Volunteers, said they are trained and urged to provide first aid to people irrespective of their political affiliations. 

“We don’t want to know the political party an individual is affiliated to. All we are doing is to help the voters to prevent themselves from COVID-19 as the pandemic still exists,” he said.

Manga said most of the voters are without face masks, which is tantamount to exposing themselves to the COVID-19. 

“During the campaigns, I have not heard any of the presidential candidates urging voters to wear their facemasks when going to the polls and this should be part of their campaigns messages but none of them took time to do so,” he said.

Mariama Darbor, a voter who was on a queue without wearing a facemask, alleged that some of the presidential candidates were not wearing face masks during campaigns. 

“For me I thought that the pandemic has gone because all the preventive measures put in place by the health authorities are no longer observed or adhered to,” she noted.

Lamin Bojang, another voter also waiting on the queue to cast his vote, was without a face mask. Bojang said he did not believe in the existence of the coronavirus pandemic and that he sees top government officials who never wear face masks.

“If the virus really exists, the presidential candidates would have taken their time to send messages regarding the existence of the virus,” he said.