By Nelson Manneh
Dr. Ahmadou Lamin Samateh, the Minister of Health has on Friday, 10th July 2020 disclosed to the media that the Government of the Gambia has approved one hundred million dalasi (D100,000,000) to be distributed among the COVID-19 frontline workers.
Minister Samateh said the payment of the frontline workers has commenced. He said the front-liners have been categorized into four categories based on their risks and they are; low risk, moderate risk, high risks and high risk plus.
“The estimation we made was that those under low risks will be paid D11, 895.31 as a package, moderate risk will be paid D15, 860.42, high risk will be paid D19, 825.52 and high risk plus will be paid D23, 7 90.63 each,” he said.
The Minister of Health said this is how the one hundred million dalasis will be distributed and the front-line workers that are captured are over five thousand eight hundred.
Frontline health workers have recently embarked on a strike after the government failed to meet their demands by paying each of them seven hundred and fifty dalasis per day, which means each of them should be paid D22, 500 per month and this should be back dated to January 2020.
Minister Samateh said the Government cannot pay them seven hundred and fifty dalasis per day. He indicated that in The Gambia COVID-19 did not start in January 2020, adding it started in March 2020.
He said all health workers have their monthly salaries and the COVID-19 allowance was the government’s decision to supplement their efforts. Samateh said the health personnel should not come up with their own amount as allowance.
Minister Samateh said he is yet to receive any written document regarding the demands of the protesters. He said he also heard the strikers demanding that the government should concentrate only on the response team, but was quick to say that they (the strikers) should know that healthcare work is a team work and all are important in it.
He said their colleague who recently died of COVID-19 was not in the response team, but he got the virus and died so those working in the hospital are also exposed to COVID-19 adding “in other countries no allowance is allocated to the healthcare workers with regards to COVID-19.”
The Minister said he also heard the strikers talking about their feeding.
“It was goodwill from the government because normally anybody who works from the morning till closing time, you are not given food. The reason for providing them with food is for them not to waste time outside looking for food and to concentrate on their work,” the Minister said.
He said the COVID-19 response team is divided in to six teams and each team has a leader and each team head is given one hundred thousand dalasis impress and the interest is meant to buy credit, food, drinks and provide them with their other needs.
Minister Samateh said the government has acknowledged their efforts and they should also acknowledge the efforts of the government.
He said the allowance has been paid in to their accounts and the Minister is urging them (the strikers) to go back to work and stop listening to those undermining the government’s efforts.
With regards to the borders, the Minister said the borders are not yet open notwithstanding that Senegal has lifted some of their regulations.
With regards to the face masks donated to the Gambia government, Ministar Samateh said: “Face masks donated to the Ministry of Health are used in the health facilities for the use of the staff. Recently we started getting the locally made face masks which are being distributed to the health facilities too. If other groups requested for masks they are always given.”
The Minister said the face masks are supplied based on request.
Samateh said the government cannot go round the country to distribute face masks, adding that they would try to provide masks to vulnerable groups who cannot afford to buy them.