By Arfang M.S. Camara
Since the outbreak of COVID 19 as a global pandemic, and their initial response to it, the Gambia’s ministry of Health has come under intense scrutiny and criticism for their handling of the situation. One such scrutiny came prominently from the leader of the Gambia Moral Congress, Mai Ahmed Fatty who lamented the poor conditions of the quarantine centers the Ministry set up after been quarantined in one of those facilities with some members of his family. And on Tuesday, the Ministry of Health issued a response.
Speaking on behalf of the ministry, Modou Njai, director of Health Promotion and Education said that their ministry would like to dismiss the claims made by the GMC leader in his recent press briefing regarding the conditions of the quarantine centers particularly the Badala Park Hotel.
Director Njai explained that the GMC leader Mai Ahmed Fatty was intercepted together with his wife, male child and the driver he was traveling with on their return from Senegal by the health officials on duties at the Amdalai point of entry and taken to quarantine from the 20th April to 13th May 2020.
Mai Fatty initially purported that “when he was taken to the room where he was isolated, he found nothing there”. But the health ministry in response urged the general public to disregard this information as all the quarantine facilities were furnished with standard beds, television, air conditioning, dining tables, refrigerator, chair, shower, toilet and room services as found in hotels, as well as provided with psychosocial support and medical care, he asserted.
Mr. Njai added that a group of nineteen journalists from different media houses visited the quarantine centers on the 7th May 2020 when Mr. Fatty and his family were serving their quarantine period.
Regarding claims of the lack of face masks for health personnel at the quarantine centers, director Njai said that the ministry of Health would like to inform the general public that as part of their policy, all health personnel at the quarantine, treatment and laboratory centers are provided with personal protective equipment such as face marks, gloves amongst others.
He informed that “Even those persons under quarantine are provided with face masks throughout their quarantine period,”
In contrast however, Mr Fatty said based on his conversation with some frontline health workers during his time under quarantine, he realized that some of these health personnel had to borrow money in order to afford their families daily sustenance.
Again, the ministry’s Modou Njai responded to this claim by informing the general public that health workers are civil servants and they are receiving their monthly salaries from the Gambia government.
He added that the government does not give daily sustenance allowance for the upkeep of their families but the Ministry of Health is providing incentives for all frontline health workers including those at the quarantine centers.
“An initial amount has been paid to all those personnel working at the quarantine centers 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 also said that some people were picked from streets and taken directly to quarantine center with only a shirt and a trouser on, adding that some of these people spent almost all their quarantine period with the same cloths on.
In response, “The Ministry of Health would like to inform the public that there is no restriction placed on people under quarantine to be provided with cloths and other basic needs to be channeled through their families or through our personnel attached to the centers.”Mr Njie noted that persons under quarantine are equally allowed to communicate with their families and love ones through telephones without restrictions.
He finally went on, on behalf of the Ministry, to inform the public 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, Njai concluded.