DILI, 12 May 2020 (TATOLI) – The Timor-Leste government said it plans to convert the Tasi Tolu and Tibar quarantine sites into isolation centres for possible new COVID-19 patients.
The tent sites have served as home for hundreds of people undergoing mandatory quarantine after arriving back in Timor-Leste from abroad.
But with the borders closed, the sites have emptied; just 60 people remain in quarantine in Dili, and 20 in the Oe-cusse enclave.
The Coordinator of the Covid Rapid Response team, Aurelio Guterres, said it signals a shift in focus for health authorities in dealing with the outbreak.
“We are transforming Tibar and Tasi-Tolu currently into places for isolation, because in the second period we’re entering, all of us will concentrate on isolation [instead] of quarantine,” he said last week, following a meeting of the Integrated Crisis Management Centre (CIGC), which was set up to respond to COVID-19.
The two sites will supplement the existing isolation centre, Vera Cruz, in which six patients remain under medical care. The Maliana and Covalima quarantine sites will also be converted, Mr Guterres said.
“Vera Cruz will remain as the isolation sites for severe cases, and Tasi Tolu for more light cases, because the site we prepare will fit 400 to 500 people,” he said.
Health workers sparked a violent protests in March while attempting to set up the quarantine site at Tibar, about 17 kilometres west of the capital Dili, with locals vocally opposed to authorities “bringing coronavirus” to the community.
Police offer site for COVID-19 quarantine at Bobonaro
On Monday, the Police Border Patrol unit (UPF) offered health authorities a one-hectare (2.47 acres) at Batugade, on the border with Indonesian West Timor, for use as an quarantine site.
Superintendent João Belo dos Reis visited the site yesterday, along with a team from the Ministry of Health (MS), the CIGC and the National Development Agency (ADN).
“If the quarantine site is built in the next two days (Wednesday), security will be controlled by us [UPF] as it is close to border, because people who arrive illegally… [can be] transported here for their 14 day quarantine,” he said.
He said the UPF would be able to use the site for its members once the COVID-19 crisis is over.
“Our hope is to install the quarantine here, for the UPF to continue using as [a] barracks. That’s why we’re offering this hectare of land to build the quarantine,” he said.
Supt. Belo acknowledged that the police have a great deal of land – 20 hectares – but limited infrastructure. This was therefore an opportunity for police to ensure the installation has a life beyond the COVID-19 response, and wouldn’t be abandoned.
“I presented this to commission to observe, and they’ll come back again for a second visit,” he said.
Some 24 people have returned positive results for COVID-19 in Timor-Leste, but the Ministry of Health said 22 confirmed and “probable” cases have now recovered, and there are no reported deaths from the virus.
Read the original Tetum coverage here: Governu Transforma Kuarentena Rua Sai Fatin Izolamentu; UFP Oferese Rai Ektare Ida Ba CIGC Hodi Instala Fatin Kuarentena
Journalist: Natalino Costa
Editors: Robert Baird, Julia Chatarina
Translation: Nelia Borges