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In Coronavirus Fight, Health Minister Allays Public Fear with Preparedness Level

Dr. Amadou Samateh, Gambia's Health Minister

The Health Minister of The Gambia, Dr. Amadou Samateh has allayed the fear of public concern regarding the continuous spread of coronavirus by assuring that the country is prepared in terms of precautions at all entry points.

He told journalists on Thursday in Banjul that special checks are done at the airport, seaport and land borders on arrivals of people, especially from affected countries.

Coronavirus continues to spread across the globe, beyond China where the outbreak began. On Thursday, the head of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, said the disease has reached a ‘decisive point and has a pandemic potential’ due to its manner in spreading around.

Gambia’s Health Minister Dr. Amadou Samateh discussing with the Chinese Ambassador to The Gambia H.E. Ma Jianchun on how to prevent the virus from breaking into The Gambia  PhotoCredit: Foroyaa

“Our people are there and you can see what is happening at the airport, they are taking the precautions, temperature of people and taking travel history of those who have traveled to some affected countries, such people are put aside and interviewed and they are followed up even in their homes to make sure if they see signs they are tackled immediately,” he said in an interview with journalists at the main referral hospital in Banjul (EFSTH). 

He said similar efforts are being done at the seaport and at the land borders. “We are doing sensitization campaigns and awareness campaigns because people need to be aware how to protect themselves.”

In these campaigns, he disclosed that people are told what the signs and symptoms are so that they seek medical advice when it is required. 

A total of 82,464 including 78,599 in mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau confirmed cases of novel coronavirus infection including 2,807 deaths including 2,746 in China, 19 in Iran, 13 in Italy, 13 in South Korea, 3 in Japan, 2 in France and 1 each in the Philippines and Taiwan have been reported across the world as of February 27th, 2020, according to pharmaceuticaltechnology.com.

Coronavirus cases continues to emerge in China

Other countries that are affected include the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Austria, Egypt and other middle eastern countries. 

Fate of Gambian citizens in China

Since the outbreak of the virus in China in 2019, Gambians are concerned about 24 citizens who are currently stuck in the virus hit-areas such as Wuhan, Hubei and Wenzhou as they pursue their higher education. The minister emphasized that the government is concerned about their fate as they are regularly checked upon.  

He disputed the claim that it’s only the Gambian government in Africa that has not evacuated its citizens from China amid the deadly virus. “I have not heard of any African country that has evacuated its citizens. What I know is that the government is very much concerned about its citizens wherever they are, whether in Ghana, China, Japan or any other country.”

Most of the Gambian students are living within the virus hit-areas such as Wuhan, Hubei

“The government has been concerned about its citizens there. I know the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is in touch with them, they have sent some support, and they are monitoring their issues and we are also monitoring the health of those citizens,” said the minister.

He informs that the government is in close contact with the Chinese embassy and they get updates through the Foreign Affairs ministry with regard to their welfare and well-being. He stated that the Chinese embassy has also reassured that they are doing their best in taking care of citizens of other countries while continuing supporting them in their residences anytime when required. 

On Monday, Foreign Affairs Ministry announced the transfer of money amounting to $10,520 equivalent to GMD536,520 to the account of The Gambia Embassy in Beijing for onward distribution among the 24 Gambian students living in the affected provinces.

Bamako meeting 

The minister returned from the regional ministerial meeting in Bamako, Mali where they discussed the harmonization mechanisms in terms of border protection. 

“We discussed a lot of things and certainly the preparedness issues of the countries so that we share ideas of what to do to prepare our citizens and in preparing our health systems with regards to our response to the coronavirus. All these countries in West Africa, you have border with one country and that country has a border with another country and before you know, you covered the entire region.” 

What if the virus breaks into The Gambia 

Responding to The Chronicle’s reporter on whether Gambia is well-equipped materially to contain the virus if it breaks in the country, he said they will do their best within the possibilities to avoid causing havoc.

“When you talk about well-equipped, in these responses you do your best as to what is available, what is possible and what protocols are put in place. The protocols that are put in place, of course we sensitize our communities, we tell them to be on the look-out and the good personal hygiene practices,” he said.

He advised that people should do regular washing of hands with soap and water, use hand sanitizer, cover their mouths when coughing and avoid using fingers in their eyes, nose and mouth.

This machine saves coronavirus patients @GettyImages

“When it comes to the borders, we are doing our best because we are training people who are the first points of call, we are training health care providers in our health systems with regards to clinical matters just in case.”

“The nurses and the doctors are being trained just for them to understand the protocols on how to deal with it should in case it breaks here. These are things that we do and these are the things other countries do.”

He said while other countries certainly have more resources than The Gambia has, they are doing their best within their resource limitations. 

“We have got a lot of personal protective equipment and just yesterday we received another consignment of personal protective equipment and we also protect our healthcare workers that are dealing with the potential threats just in case there is a threat,” Samateh, the minister of health told The Chronicle.

Generally, more than 80,000 people in more than 40 countries have been infected by the virus, according to BBS’s live updates on the disease. 

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