Government Promises to fix “Flaws” at Quarantine Sites

Government Promises to fix “Flaws” at Quarantine Sites

Novo Horizonte Hotel at Metiaut (Image/Felicidade Ximenes)

DILI, March 27, 2020 (TATOLI) – Interim Health Minister, Élia dos Reis Amaral, said authorities would make “every effort” to facilitate social distancing at its Covid-19 quarantine sites – but concedes there aren’t enough beds for people to sleep separately.

As TATOLI reported yesterday, some of the residents quarantined at Novo Horizonte hotel in Metiaut reported sleeping arrangements of two or three people to a room, and in an unclean environment.

Related news: Fears Covid-19 Quarantine Site Could Actually Help Spread the Virus

Ms Amaral said the ministry had “registered” those concerns.

“There are cases where two to three people sleep in the same room… The Ministry of Health will continue to strive to resolve this issue,” she said at the National Parliament this morning.

The lack of beds forced authorities earlier this week to place 34 Timorese workers returning home from Australia at a government office in Comoro for the mandatory 14-day quarantine.

“The failures that are registered in the two hotels will force the Ministry of Health, in partnership with the World Health Organisation (WHO), to look for more suitable places in order to guarantee the fulfilment of the social distancing,” Ms Amaral said.

Related news: Parliament Approves State of Emergency to Deal with Covid-19

The Interim Minister said a health technical team is currently visiting the three quarantine sites places to collect information, especially about the supplied food, and social distancing.

“We recognise that there were flaws in the accommodation of passengers who arrived in Dili and were quarantined,” he said.

Cost “a big dilemma” for Ministry of Health

Timor-Leste’s ongoing budget impasse has left the country running on month-by-month funding since the start of the year. The MS’s Director-General of Primary Health, Odete da Silva Viegas, said that’s making decisions more difficult.

“It’s a big dilemma for us to choose between the expensive [option] and inexpensive one. But the situation forces us to put people who are coming from abroad from affected countries in quarantine and wait…for 14 days,” she said.

Director-General of Primary Healthcare, Odete Viegas da Silva (Image/Felicidade Ximenes)

The Ministry did not outline how much the hotel accommodations would cost the government. But Ms Viegas said under the State of Emergency, which begins at midnight tomorrow night,  the government has new powers to stop businesses – including hotels – from escalating prices.

And she said the government ought to look to build a permanent, mass-quarantine site  for emergency situations such as the current pandemic.

“Although [it would] cost a lot of money, at least it will be permanent, compared with high amount that we spend to the hotel for only 14 days.”

“This is such a good lesson to us, so in coming days we should plan and prepare well for the disease… because who knows when another virus will appear?” she said.

Journalists: Domingos Piedade Freitas; Osória Marques

Editors: Robert Baird; Zezito Silva; Cancio Ximenes

Translation: Nelia Borges


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