RESPONSE TO THE GMC LEADER MR. MAI AHMED FATTY’S CLAIM ON THE “POOR” CONDITIONS OF QUARANTINE CENTRES
Following information circulating across various media platforms and other circles including the recently concluded press briefing regarding claims of poor conditions of the quarantine centres particularly the Badala Park Hotel, the Ministry of Health would like to dismiss these claims.
It would be recalled that the GMC leader Mr. Mai Ahmed Fatty was intercepted together with his wife, male child and the driver of the private vehicle he was traveling in upon return from the Republic of Senegal by health officials on duties at the Amdalai point of entry (border post) and taken to quarantine from 20th April -13th May 2020.
Mr. Fatty said “when I was taken to my room where I was isolated, I find nothing there” (Voice Newspaper, May 14th 2020). The Ministry of Health would like to urge the general public to disregard this information as all the quarantine facilities with hotel standard beds, television, air condition, dining tables, refrigerator, chairs, shower, toilet and room services as well as health services such as psychosocial support and medical care.
This can be attested by a group of 19 journalists from different media houses on the 7th May 2020 at a time when Mr. Fatty and his family (wife, male child and driver) were serving their quarantine period. The assessment visit of the media to the quarantine centre that housed Mr. Fatty and family was broadcast on the mainstream and online media for wider public consumption.
Regarding claims of the lack of face masks for health personnel at quarantine centres, the Ministry of Health would like to inform the general public that as part of its policy, all health personnel at quarantine, treatment, laboratory centres are provided with personal protective equipment such as face mask, gloves, etc. In addition, persons under quarantine are provided with face masks throughout their quarantine period.
According to Mr. Fatty, based on his conversation with some frontline health workers during his time under quarantine; he realized that some of these health personnel have to borrowed money in order to get their families’ daily sustenance (The Voice Newspaper, May 14th 2020). The Ministry of Health would like to inform the general public that health workers are civil servants who are receiving their monthly salaries from The Gambia Government on time. Government does not give daily sustenance allowance for upkeep of their families but the Ministry of Health is providing incentives for all frontline health workers including those at the quarantine centres. An initial amount has been paid to all those personnel working at the quarantine centres and plans are at an advance stage for additional payment of incentives to all frontline workers including the personnel at the quarantine facilities.
Mr. Fatty said that some people were picked from streets and taken directly to quarantine center with only a shirt and a trouser, adding that some of these people spent almost all their quarantine with the same cloths (The Voice Newspaper, May 14th 2020). The Ministry of Health would like to inform the public that there is no restriction on people under quarantine to be provided with cloths and other basic needs which are channeled by their families through our personnel attached to the centres. Persons on quarantine are equally allowed to communicate with their families and love ones through telephones without restrictions.
The general public is hereby informed that during public health emergencies or pandemic, putting people in quarantine or isolation is mandatory as indicated in the National Public Health Act of (1990) and the International Health Regulations (2005) as the best strategy to avoid further transmission of diseases. During the quarantine period, the Ministry of Health ensure the provision of three meals to each person under quarantine as opposed to the claim that only one meal is provided. Mr. Fatty was given the exceptional privilege to cook his choice of meal whenever he feels like doing so.
In The Gambia, the government through the Ministry of Health is using our meager national resources to provide standard hotels as quarantine centres at no cost to the persons on quarantine for a period of 14 days. This is not the case in many countries where persons on quarantine foot their own bill of all services provided. In some cases persons under quarantine are lodged in schools, stadiums and prisons.
The Ministry of Health would like to assure the general public that the welfare of frontline workers and persons on quarantine are given much attention at all times. We would also like to assure families of those on quarantine that the Ministry of Health consider the plight of their love ones and will continue to give the best support needed.
The Ministry of Health solicits the support and cooperation of the general public in relating accurate information especially in this trying moment when all are expected to work collectively against the COVID-19 pandemic that no one ever expected.