By M. Peter – Jos

Heipang community in Barkin Ladi local government area of Plateau state has raised concern over the choice of the community as an isolation center for suspected COVID-19 disease cases.

The community members through different groups including the Coalition of Concerned Heipang Health Professionals, Berom Youth Moulders’ Association and Development Associations in Heipang noted that the conversion of a hotel located within residential area in the community into a quarantine centre for COVID-19 is against specified guidelines of containing the disease.

In a communique issued at the end of a day workshop on risk communication and community safety measures against COVID-19 pandemic organized by Concerned Health Professionals in collaboration with Berom Youth Moulders’ Association, the people insisted that the action is against WHO’s guidelines for the establishment of such a facility.

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The communique signed by the leadership of BYM Heipang District, Concerned Heipang Health Professionals and Heipang Progressives’ Development Association was read by Da David Bot who said that the community is concern that weeks ago, the Plateau State government established a quarantine centre at Godiya Tourists Resort which is within a residential area, without the knowledge of leaders and members of the community, in view of the inherent risk the facility poses to residents of the area.

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“WHO guidelines for establishing a quarantine centre clearly indicates amongst others that the facility be sited in a location at the outskirt of the town and must be far from residential homes and crowded places. The guidelines also stipulates that the facility should be close to a tertiary health facility for easy commuting of quarantine clients who might develop symptoms within the period.”

“The community wondered why government disregarded these guidelines in view of the highly contagious nature of COVID-19, siting the centre within residential area and the quarantine centre shares fence with a residential home,” he said.

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The community noted that “innocent and untrained workers in the hotel who live within the community still render services as against international best practices which states that stewards should be withdrawn once the hotel is leased out for this purpose and professionals be engaged.”

The community says the centre lacks biomedical waste management infrastructure and its internal operations leave much to be desired with regards to public/community health.

“The community was shocked to meet a lady of about 20 years carrying waste and disposable plates which quarantine subjects have used within the compound in a mesh basket as against leak-proof red, black or yellow containers as stipulated by WHO. More disturbing was the fact that the lady was not kitted in any personal protective equipment (PPE) and waste is disposed in an open space within the hotel were rats, lizards, birds and scavenger dog can easily access.”

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But the State Commissioner for Information and Communication, Mr. Dan Manjang who reacted to the observation said the observations were “just the imagination of the community.”

“These are just imaginations of the community, professionals have told us that the disease is not airborne, we cannot just put people there without observing minimum standard.”

“Government is responsive, it is the facility that we have available, there is nobody that will do things deliberately to jeopardize the health of the people of Heipang or any other place. Will the lizards and chickens go and romance the people? It is just an unfounded allegation, the minimum standard that should be observed is there.”