An atmosphere of rejoicing has trailed an announcement by the government of The Gambia easing some of the partial restrictions on places of worship and markets introduced more than two months ago to stop the spread of the coronavirus.There were smiles all around in Gambia’s busiest business hub, the Serrekunda market where shopkeepers, tailors and dealers in general merchandises talked about the new development with raised spirits, saying it was long overdue.
The announcement clears markets to open from 6am to 6pm every day until further notice and allows Grade 9 to Grade 12 students to resume classes beginning on June 8.
Acting with caution, health authorities are taking a gradual approach towards restoring normalcy to the rhythm of life in The Gambia which had been disrupted since late March 2020.
It was business as usual for Muslim worshippers dressed in colourful robes and bound for their Friday congregational prayers which were banned for more than two months to discourage social gatherings which health authorities fear could spark a chain of local Covid-19 infections.
A handful of imams were detained, prosecuted and fined for leading group prayers in mosques and homes.
Thanks to the restrictions, there were no official Eid-Ul-Fitr anywhere in The Gambia last month.
Prior to the announcement, many especially those whose livelihoods depend on daily runs had complained about the partial lockdown robbing them of their means of earning a living for the welfare of their families.
The smallest country on mainland Africa has 26 registered cases of coronavirus and one death from the virus and it has been under an extended state of emergency after the expiry of the first restrictions in May.
Meanwhile Gambia’s borders which are hemmed in on three sides by neighbouring Senegal remain closed and so are its airport and seaport to the outside world.