In the National Assembly |02 December 2020
Covid-19 quarantine centre moves to Avani
• No risks to public safety
Security at the new quarantine centre at Avani Hotel Barbarons is being stepped up and people in quarantine are not allowed to venture on the adjacent public beach or move around freely but to adhere to strict public health measures in place.
The Minister for Health, Peggy Vidot, gave this assurance to members of the public and people living near the facility.
Minister Vidot said that a responsible person, health ministry staff included, should strictly adhere to all health regulations and venture out only as per the health guidelines.
Minister Vidot gave this information to the National Assembly yesterday when answering several components of a private notice question (PNQ) by the leader of the opposition, Sebastien Pillay.
Mr Pillay had asked the minister a series of questions related to different measures and expenses related to the Covid-19 pandemic namely the renting of Berjaya Beau Vallon Bay as a quarantine centre, tents for sorting patients, among others.
With regard to renting of tents for sorting patients at all health centres, Minister Vidot explained that the Ministry of Health started to rent tents for sorting out of patients after the first positive case of Covid-19 was detected here in March. Minister Vidot noted that sorting of patients is essential to protect patients and staff in line with best practices as recommended in such situations.
She noted that with the urgency to set up the sorting centres, tents were seen as the best structures as they could be put in place quickly.
Minister Vidot added it was at that time that the health ministry sought companies who were in the tent renting business and five of them were identified and they were able to set up the tents in all health centres on Mahé, Praslin and La Digue over a weekend.
As for choosing Berjaya as a quarantine centre she said the health ministry needed to find such a facility at a time when the Covid-19 pandemic around the world was at its worst and Seychelles had recorded its first case and a public health urgency had been declared in the country.
“With the increasing number of returning Seychellois, who needed to be quarantined and the large number of people being identified during contact tracing who also needed to be quarantined, it was clear therefore that the facilities the health ministry had at that time which was at the coast guard and Maison Football were not enough to meet its increasing needs in relation to the number of people being quarantined thus a decision was reached in March to requisition Berjaya under the Public Health Urgency Act,” Minister Vidot explained.
She said the issue of payment was discussed with the Ministry of Finance and the price reached was the lowest that the two parties negotiated and agreed on at that time and Berjaya was chosen because of its location, for the number of rooms it could provide as well as other criteria that were used.
The starting price Berjaya charged per room was R1500 but after negotiation the price of R500 was agreed on. But from July after the end of the first contract, the price was reviewed and following discussions with the Ministry of Finance R800 per room was agreed on but the Ministry of Health had to pay for utilities and wifi for 177 rooms.
As for the tents that the health ministry was renting from the five companies, Minister Vidot said this was amounting to R129,370 per month.
Minister Vidot noted that talks with Avani to house frontline staff including the Kenyan nurses started much later. The minister added that in view of the country’s current difficult financial situation, a decision was taken to ensure public funds are wisely used and expenses are reduced as much as possible and this is what has happened.
She went on to explain that only people on quarantine will be moving to Avani and that no frontline staff are housed there since May while the Kenyan nurses lived there until August and now they are housed in a private accommodation until the last batch of them leave the country in the coming weeks.
With the new offer from Avani, the facility will now be used for quarantine of residents, GOP holders from countries on the category 2 list of Covid-19 infection as well as high risk cases detected here.
Minister Vidot added that all the decisions are discussed with the Public Health Authority, the health department as well as all concerned authorities and agencies on the Covid-19 response plan before a consensus is reached on how best and with the lowest risks possible they would be implemented.
With regard to the president’s state visit abroad and foreign dignitaries visiting Seychelles, Minister Vidot stated that at the beginning of the pandemic our country was in a different financial economic situation than today.
“We need therefore to take measures that take into account our present economic realities. It is clear that the opening of Seychelles to the world so we can re-launch our economy is essential more than ever and therefore we have to face many more risks. But there is consensus in government that the visits are in the national interests and will no doubt help our country to continue addressing the numerous challenges it is currently facing,” Minister Vidot said.
She stressed that the Ministry of Health is satisfied that all the visits have been carried out under the strictest conditions and in line with all health measures in place.
Furthermore she pointed out that the fact that two health staff have contracted the virus has nothing to do with the visits but rather with the need for each and every one of us to renew our individual effort to better practice basic preventive and precautionary measures like handwashing and sanitising, wearing face masks and keeping social distance.
As the two cases are through local transmission, Minister Vidot has once again appealed to each and every one of us to adhere to all these preventive and precautionary measures at all times because the Covid-19 pandemic is still very real and strong in a lot of countries and here we are recording more positive cases and the mode of transmission is changing.