DILI, March 25, 2020 (TATOLI) – Residents living in quarantine at the Hotel Novo Horizonte, in Dili, say they’re worried the sleeping quarters – up to three people per room – will spread any potential Covid-19 infection.
A young man, who wished to remain anonymous, has told TATOLI the hotel in the Dili suburb of Metiaut is not fit for social distancing requirements.
“There are two or three people sleeping in the same room. How are we going to prevent the disease [spreading]?” he said.
The Ministry of Health recommends maintaining at least one metre distance from people exhibiting symptoms of the virus. WHO guidelines also recommend avoiding all physical contact with other people, regardless of symptoms.
The Novo Horizonte also said the facility was unclean and had a proliferation of mosquitoes, underlining worries they could contract dengue or anopther unrelated disease during their mandatory two weeks quarantine.
“We are here to fulfil 14 days to take precautions and avoid spreading [Covid-19]. However, the fact that two to three people are in the same room can put our health at risk,” the young man said.
A total of 95 Timorese citizens have entered quarantine after returned to the country between Sunday and Tuesday of this week, along with seven foreign citizens from Indonesia, Zimbabwe, Australia and Sri Lanka.
A further 62 people are quarantined at the Hotel Audian.
The virus has now infected 430,770 people in almost every country in the world since New Year’s Eve. More than 100,000 have recovered, while 20,075 people have died from the virus, according to the latest figures from the World Health Organisation.
“It is very risky”: GP
The quarantined group called on the Ministry of Health, which is coordinating the quarantine sites, to respect social distance, suggesting only a single person be placed in each room.
“The quarantine conditions are not the best, as meals sometimes arrive late, and cause stomach pains. In addition, the local community has taken a protest action against our stay here at the hotel,” the young man said.
He also highlighted the need for family support, particularly in the delivery of food. But he said many have not yet been able to contact their family.
The Ministry of Health said the residents are monitored 24 hours a day by a medical “vigilance” team posted to the hotel. As of Wednesday, some patients had been identified as suffering respiratory problems, but none with symptoms of Covid-19.
Nevertheless, Dr Estanislau Amaral, a GP posted to Novo Horizonte, said the concerns of the quarantined group are legitimate because housing two to three people in a single room can facilitate contagion.
“It is very risky. But I will inform Covid-19’s epidemiology program so that action can be taken,” he said.
Seven to a room at Batugade
Despite the concerns, Timor’s border police (Unidade Polísia Fronteira – UPF) has set up very similar quarters at the Indonesian border at Batugade for quarantine.
The UPF has shown TATOLI into one of the living quarters with seven beds to a small room.
UPF Commander, Superintendent João Belo dos Reis said the site is ready for officers to enforce the mandatory quarantine period.
“The UPF has given 100 mattresses to help the Ministry of Health set up an integrated post at Batugade, to establish a provisional quarantine site.” he said on Tuesday.
The UPF has also set up a hand wash station, and cleared space at the border for a tent supplied by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), Supt João said.
The Ministry of Health has been contacted for comment.
Related news (Portuguese): Grupo em quarentena preocupado com falta de condições
Editors: Robert Baird; Maria Auxiliadora; Francisco Simões
Translation: Nelia Borges