By Samsudeen Sarr
It is rather disheartening to hear the ordeal of a female immigration officer in the Gambia narrating her experience with health officials stupidly accusing her of being infected with the coronavirus.
According to the lady complaining from the Banjul Sanitarium, they were 47 female students from the security services, 24 immigration officers, 14 from the army and 9 from the Gambia police force who had arrived in the Gambia on March 20, 2020 after completing a training course in Abu Dhabi.
Upon arrival at Yundum International Airport, ministry of health personnel informed them of the government decision to quarantine them because of the coronavirus pandemic. The 24 immigration and nine police officers were all taken to a facility at Manduar where for two days seven of them shared a room that had no electricity or running water. After complaining about the inhabitable conditions they moved them to Bamboo Hotel, wherever that is, but where they finally enjoyed the privacy of each to a room under better conditions.
Fourteen days after, they were all released and declared coronavirus free.
They returned to their homes and for over a week lived freely and healthily in the country and with their family members and friends.
Then suddenly, according to the lady who seemingly forgot to mention her name in the audio circulating on social media, they got a call to report to the Police Intervention Unit (PIU) headquarters for blood tests. Upon arrival however, health officials instead of drawing blood, subjected them to a painful procedure of inserting cotton buds deep into their dry nostrils to swipe out non-existing smut that she refused to undergo. They were eventually left to return home but later called again by one Captain Corr from the Gambia National Army who told her that they were coming for her for more tests. As far as she was concerned there was nothing to indicate a need to test her for “coronavirus infection” because she had felt no symptoms of the disease.
But they came anyway, forcing her into an ambulance that took her to another location at Yundum where two more of her colleagues, Binta Jabang and Aja Mariama both immigration officers were picked up and driven straight to the Banjul Sanitorium, yes, “ the forbidden Wencho”, where chronic tuberculoses patients are admitted for treatment.
There, someone informed them that they were suspected of having the coronavirus and had to be admitted for treatment. The woman sounds very traumatized, expressing her dismay over how out of 47 of them who had been together that long and interacting with a lot of people since their arrival from Abu Dhabi only the three of them were IMAGINED to be infected. IMAGINED, because there was no test to confirm their infection and no symptoms to show that they had COVID-19. She bemoaned over the mosquito-infested conditions at “Wencho” and is convinced that the government is deliberately trying to make them sick.
Unless the lady fabricated the story which I find no reason for her to do so, we must accept that the Gambia government doesn’t still know how the hell to go about with this pandemic. I hope it didn’t have anything to do with one of my articles where I revealed the dumbness of quarantining possible-infected persons for a couple of weeks without any tests and declaring them negative and free to go home.
After all why curing somebody who is not sick. These women who have still not been tested properly, if ever at all, could, even if found positive, fall under the category of the overwhelming infected majority of people doctors identify as asymptomatic. They are the ones whose immune systems are strong enough to resist developing COVID-19, the disease, no matter how exposed they are to the pathogen. The only advise they give these people is to stay away from the vulnerable ones, particularly the elderly with underlying health problems. Apparently there is a mysterious susceptible group to doctors and scientists who across all ages are quickly killed when infected and even without pre-existing health conditions. Scientist are looking into the possibility of genetical factors among this small but highly vulnerable victims.
Notwithstanding, the most vulnerable have also been infected, sickened and fully recovered, including people in their 90s. Just that its infection rate is higher and the disease known for rapidly affecting the human respiratory system which is very painful and of course often deadly.
Anyway, teenagers in general are believed to be the most asymptomatic and the agents taking the virus home and infecting their vulnerable parents. Other than that it doesn’t do anything to them.
In New York, now the epicenter of the global pandemic where tests are now conducted 50,000 per day, only people showing signs and symptoms of developing the disease are tested and a concern doctors. Essentially meaning that if you are not coughing, don’t have a fever or develop unusually high temperature and not suffering from a cold or from breathing difficulty, the doctors consider you free of the virus or being asymptomatic.
Those people are merely advised to respect the set rules of, staying at home, social-distancing and wearing face masks outside the home and maintaining proper hygiene.
Looking at the overcrowding still going on in Gambian markets and streets and at places outside the view of those monitoring or trying to enforce the restrictions, the whole country is still disorderly.
As a result, I hope somebody will let the government or the health ministry know that their treatment of those immigration ladies admitted forcefully to “Wencho” is not only dangerous to their health and that of their families but is an act bordering on delinquency.
I was almost about to believe that the health minister Mr Samateh was on top of his game, but with what has been going on in the country lately I am now beginning to believe in what former Secretary General Momodou Sabally said about the man that he is just another square peg in a round hole.
But where the hell is President Adama Barrow again to tell the Gambians what the hell is going on?