Gambia: Commercial Drivers Face a Decrease in Business amid COVID-19
The novel coronavirus continues its ravaging effect by killing thousands of people and placing more than half-a-million people on sick beds across the world. The businesses are also grinded to a halt due to its intensifying spread around the world.
In the Gambia, where four people have been confirmed infected with one death so far by the virus is equally losing millions of dalasi by day due to non-operations of businesses. This devastating effect has gone further to hamper the commercial drivers across the country.
On Friday, President Adama Barrow declared a state of public emergency across the country. Among his declarations, commercial vehicles are ordered to carry only a half of the required number of passengers as a measure to curb the pandemic from spreading wide. But even before the government’s declaration, some regular users of commercial vehicles had already abandoned them in order to stay healthy.
“Before the virus hit the country, I was earning a lot of money from the daily traffic. But since the virus came, it’s even a problem to earn D100. I just have D20 in my pocket. I bought porridge for breakfast and base all my hopes in God,” a taxi driver, Ousman Ceesay, tells the Chronicle.
However, he associated himself with the president’s declaration even though his industry is largely affected.
“I think it’s a good move. Vehicles taking 3 passengers should take 2 or even ply town trips, because you never know who has the virus. In this situation, 2 or 3 passengers are enough. Taxis can take 2 to 3 and the van drivers can also reduce the number of passengers they’re taking,” said Ceesay.
Both Dawda Gai and Samba Ceesay who’re also taxi drivers plying Westfield Tallinding have equally shared their depression.
“If we were earning D100 before the virus, now that has reduced to D20,” Gai stated.
However, he said they will continue the driving despite low passenger turn out as they could not afford to stay home. “The little we have is what we will share with our families.”
Most Gambians are living ‘from hand to mouth’ way of survival.
But Samba states that the outbreak has already been felt as so many of his colleagues decided to stay home.
A regular commercial vehicle passenger, Lamin Fatty has long been using his bicycle since the outbreak in the country to prevent contracting the virus in a public transport.
“I have reduced my missions around public areas whereby I would have to take a vehicle. I prefer walking or using my bicycle as a means of transport rather than taking a vehicle because the virus can easily spread.”
Several commercial drivers have expressed dissatisfaction towards the new regulation, indicating that the government should also reduce fuel price to commensurate with the declaration.
However, the Gambia Transport Union (GTU) which is the umbrella body for all commercial vehicle operators urged for compliance, stating that the unfortunate situation calls for such measures to avoid more serious damage.