Detained at a Four Star Covid-19 Hotel
A global pandemic, a national concern, and a concession the Government has a legitimate responsibility to manageinternational travel with a view to protecting larger Gambia.
Notwithstanding, the Government must execute its responsibility within a framework sensitive to the plight of those caught up in the Covid-19 nightmare.
But the experience of Gambians and non-Gambians who flew into the country on Brussels Airlines SN 0217 from Brussels to Banjul encountered a nightmare situation on arrival at the airport. As Brussels is a world class air transportation hub, Brussels Airlines operates therefrom the magnificently engineered and opulent Airbus A330-200 to Banjul but the beautiful flying experience on 15 January was to encounter an utter farce in the hands of the Gambia Government for disembarking passengers.
After clearing Immigration, and Customs, we were effectively arrested, detained, and escorted in a bus to the Four Star MetzyResidential Hotel to quarantine.
Others were transported to and detained at Badala Hotel.
Detained because of a lack of choice in the matter, and because no one travels from London, Brussels and airports across the world direct, or on transit, without taking and obtaining a NEGATIVE Covid-19 test result and fit to fly certificate from officially certified private outfits in originating countries within a 72-hour departing window.
It is commendable that the Gambia Government insists it must retest travelers from hotspot countries on arrival at Banjul. Since its press release on 05 January, the hotspot designation hasaltered tremendously and the flying environment itself exerts great influence on infection.
In the circumstances Government must reassess its press statement of 05 January.
It must also institute a humane environment affecting air passengers arriving in Banjul.
Some passengers from the same Brussels Airlines SN 0217 were let go at the Airport, practically endangering the larger public for their Covid-19 condition could not be ascertained on arrival. There were suggestions that Service, and Diplomatic, passport holders are exempt from the testing regime. Covid-19 affects people not passports and clearly therefore a passport holder’s mere official status is not a prophylactic against infection and public endangerment.
The larger public must not be endangered in this typically unreasoned manner.
Although the arrested SN 0217 passengers were accorded rapid access through the congested coastal road to their detention at Metzy, and Badala, many spent the night outdoors as they could not afford the D2,300 per night price tag. No food or water was provided to those detained and there were no officers around to explain the detention regime and the next steps before freedom.
More egregiously, as of right now, i.e., 13:00, there was no sight of the sample takers in spite of the fact that those detained must decide whether to rebook their hotel rooms at noon. The unprofessionalism and lack of care for fellow citizens is staggering considering some Government staffers in the Covid-19 crusade are also resident within the detention hotels, for the purpose, I guess, of ameliorating the anxieties and sufferings of detainees.
Rumour abound that Covid detainees will be released upon testing but if that is accurate, it exemplifies breathtaking callousness that documented testing was not undertaken at the airport so arriving passengers could avoid such harrowing cruelty like sleeping in the forecourts and reception and pool areas of expensive hotels instead of with family and friends.
I struggle to comprehend that my fellow travelers pre-2017 such as the Government Spokesman, and a myriad of advisers in Presidential circles, are living large this weekend of January 15 as LJD is detained with Gambian and non-Gambia fellow travelers in a Covid-19 hotel.
I am happy to go all the way but in line with the constitutional dicta of non-discrimination, anyone in SN 0217, no matter how mighty in status, must be quarantined, or is that detained?
The national interest demands it!
In the spirit of the rule of law, I hope my adviser-friends help engineer a humane Covid-19 detention mechanism with their principals.
The current regime is mindless, callous and not fit for purpose.
Lamin J. Darbo
Four Star Metzy Residence Hotel, Gambia