Health Authorities Subject Returnees to COVID-19 Test


By Mustapha Jallow

Gambian health officers at Amdalai said Thursday, travellers from Senegal including those returning from pilgrimage in Touba locally called ‘Maggal’, must undergo COVID-19 test.

While at the Amdalai border on 8th October 2020, this reporter noticed that a group of returnees (both men and women) sat outside the premises of the border security post after they were attended by health officers. They were waiting for vehicles to transport them to the Essau health centre where they were to undergo COVID-19 test. Their names were booked and registered on a covid-19 test form.

Sang M. Jarju, a health officer who was found on active duty, said over two hundred people who returned from Senegal were taken for Covid-19 test. He said travellers started coming to the border on the wee hour of Wednesday morning.

“We know they went to attend ‘maggal’, but we have to make sure each person coming from Senegal does the test – before he/she is allowed to go to his/her home”, he explained.

He said there was a push and pull on Wednesday between them and the travellers, but they were able to handle the situation following the intervention of the security agents at the border. He added these returnees were escorted to Essau where they underwent COVID 19 test.

Jarju explained that all their details were recorded by the health team so that they could track them if their test results come out positive.

“It takes 3 to 4 days before their test comes out. Also, we have what we called ‘contact trackers’ and there is a team specialised on that. So, if you are a suspect of covid, they will come for you immediately,’’ he explained.

He added some travellers sometimes pay motorcyclists to smuggle them into the country. He was however quick to add those people are sometimes apprehended by security agents in Barra and taken to Essau for them to undergo COVID 19 test.

He said: “Our officers sometimes apprehend them before they board a ferry.’’

He said: “We know the game that the smugglers play. So, our officers are also on top of issues to ensure the country remain vigilant when it comes to COVID 19.’’

He continued to say those who are suspected of contracting COVID 19 are sent to quarantine – adding any Senegalese without a residential permit is sent back to Senegal.

Jarju added Gambians coming from Europe who transit trough Senegal to Gambia, also undergo COVID test.

Another health officer said at least 40 Senegalese were apprehended by the security and sent back to their country. He said only Gambians and Senegalese with residential permit are allowed re-entry, but they must all undergo test for COVID-19.

Some travellers could be heard expressing their frustration over the slow process. Others claimed that they spent hours waiting for a vehicle to transport them to the health centre.