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MANZINI- Fearing for the worst!  This phrase best describes the emotional state of residents who reside adjacent to Mavuso Trade and Exhibition Centre in the hub.

This comes after a proposal to make the exhibition facility a quarantine centre for COVID-19 positive patients.
Last Monday, senators visited the centre to view and discuss the possibility of upgrading the pavilions into a quarantine centre and they gave the proposal a green light.

In fact, the Ministry of Health had noted that a greater number of COVID-19 positive people had mild sicknesses. Therefore, the ministry, which is worried about the capacity of the Lubombo Referral Hospital, started looking for alternative isolation centres.


The ministry said the alternative quarantine centre (Mavuso Trade and Exhibition Centre) would help ease the beds challenge for COVID-19 positive patients.
However, the ministry’s proposal did not sit well with a majority of residents who reside closer to the exhibition centre as they received it with mixed feelings.

A visit made by this reporter last week revealed that a majority of the residents were troubled by the ministry’s proposal.
One of the residents, Sizolethu Nhleko said he did not have much information about the virus.
“It is said that the coronavirus is spread by the movement of people, but most people are at home in light of the partial lockdown, yet the virus is still spreading very fast,” he said.

According to Nhleko what was even more confusing to him was the fact that scientists have attested that of late the virus was also found among animals which then did not rule out the possibility that it could easily travel.
Nhleko said if that was the case, then making Mavuso a quarantine centre for COVID-19 positive people would be more hazardous to them since they were living closer to the facility. 

“We can only rely on God’s protection because the protection of men is not enough,” he said.
However, he was quick to mention that there was nothing they could do or say if government had already taken the decision to use Mavuso as a quarantine centre.

He said they could only hope that government would tighten security to minimise the movement of people in and out of the exhibition centre.  
Another resident, Janet Mango wondered what criteria government had used in selecting Mavuso as a quarantine centre given its location.

She pointed out that according to her, government should have used boarding schools which are far from town as quarantine centres for people with COVID-19.
This she said was because schools were closed, yet boarding schools are equipped with all the facilities necessary for people who are isolated.

Such facilities include canteens, beds and showers, among others.



According to another resident who chose to be anonymous, the latest development would pose a major hazardous effect on them as they were likely to contract the virus from the people moving in and out of the facility.

He said as residents of the area, they were of the view that government should have first relocated them, further away from the Mavuso Trade and Exhibition Centre in the event they were on a mission to use the place as a quarantine for COVID-19 positive people.

This he said was because according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) standards, a quarantine centre should preferable be placed in the outskirts of the urban/city area (can be a hostel, used health care facilities/buildings, etc), away from people’s reach, crowded and populated areas, well protected and secure (preferably by security personnel/army), and should have a better approachability to tertiary hospital facility.

He said some of these guidelines were not followed when selecting Mavuso as a quarantine centre because it is located in the urban and densely populated Manzini.
In justifying this, he said COVID -19 was a fast moving pandemic which placed them (residents) at a greater risk of contracting it.
“Whenever there is a development in an area the residents who would be affected are normally relocated and given a new place. Government should do likewise,” he said. 

Another resident, Nomalungelo Ngobeni said if she had the privilege to do things her way, she would relocate from the area in fear of being infected with the novel virus.

Ngobeni emphasised the fact that in the event the exhibition centre was eventually used as quarantine, the residents should be furnished with protective gear like face masks to protect themselves from the coronavirus.
She also mentioned that government should make it a priority that they disinfect all the houses located adjacent to the place at least once in two days.

Senzelwe’yinkhosi Dladla had a different opinion regarding the proposed quarantine.
According to Dladla, there was nothing wrong with making the exhibition centre a quarantine facility for COVID-19 positive people.

This she said was because the people would be kept within the boundaries of the quarantine centre without having access to the outside world.


She did, however, mention that the security personnel should up their game by making sure that the people quarantined inside stayed within the facility at all times, failing which they were likely to impose a danger  to the residents who stayed closer to the exhibition  centre as they might infect them.

The Director of Health Services, Dr Vusi Magagula said they first accessed the situation and considered the homesteads located closer to the exhibition centre before coming to the decision to use Mavuso as a quarantine centre.

He said they did not pick the place randomly but first considered whether or not such a decision would have an effect on residents and they discovered that the quarantine centre would not have any major effects on the residents situated closer to the quarantine centre.

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