Andrea Carrozzini, INTERSOS doctor, describes the work with migrants housed for isolation in “bridge centres”, structures opened following an agreement with the Municipality of Rome, at the end of a months-long reception blockade.
Following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, the work carried out by INTERSOS in Rome was redirected into anti-COVID-19 prevention activities. Through mobile clinics, INTERSOS offered medical risk assessment examinations and information sessions in the main informal settlements and several occupied buildings in Rome. This important work has been possible only because of the direct relationship with the communities and the dialogue with local institutions. Among the various agreement reached with the Rome administration, the signing of two protocols with the Municipality was fundamental, as they made possible, from August 2020, the safe reactivation of the reception facilities in the City, which had been blocked for several months due to the health emergency.
As a result of the collaboration between INTERSOS and the Dipartimento delle Politiche Sociali of the Municipality of Rome and the ASL RM2 (Dipartimento di Prevenzione e UOC Tutela immigrati e stranieri) a Bridge Facility, the Barzilai isolation center, was established in August 2020 in the south-east area of the city. The objective of this facility is the precautionary isolation of people who are candidates for reception in the SAI circuit (formerly SIPROIMI). This is an intermediate center, a safe place equipped with single rooms and private sanitary facilities, in which people can spend the days necessary to ensure safe entry into the reception services, after having carried out an incoming and outgoing PCR test.
Orientation to services in the “bridge centres”
In this facility, we provide medical screening and other activities such as orientation to services. We also give each guest a kit with information materials about COVID-19 and hygiene products. “The training days are focused on infection management and prevention, the correct use of personal protective equipment and the correct procedures for reporting suspected or confirmed cases of infection”, Andrea Carrozzini, INTERSOS doctor says “When guests arrive at the centre we conduct COVID-19 risk assessment examinations, and we also ask the guest for information on their state of health so that we can monitor them during their stay in the centre and subsequently referr them to the relevant health services”.
In January 2021, another “bridge centre”, “Casa Bakhita”, was opened in eastern area of Rome, the center hosted families with children and single women. Since the beginning of the project, 313 guests have been hosted and examinated in the Barzilai facility, including 262 men and 51 women. In the Bakhita facility, 35 families have been hosted and examinated since the beginning of the project, for a totality of 85 examinations.
Accepting isolation for the benefit of the community
“Most of the people we assist in these centers – Carrozzini explains – come from other reception facilities, they have applied for subsidiary asylum or international protection, however, there are also cases of homeless people or people who have found accommodation in private houses with friends or relatives already in the country. The greatest difficulty encountered by the people hosted is accepting isolation”, INTERSOS doctor says. “The staff of the centers is always very patient and communicative. But being locked in a room for 10 days is not easy, even if the facilities are organised to provide as many comforts as possible during isolation, such as internet connection and personal hobbies”.
“The protocol structured in this way – Carrozzini concludes – proved to be an excellent screening tool and an excellent prevention methodology in the context of the current pandemic, especially regarding the containment of infections and community management. Without this “filtering” mechanism, there would have been a risk of spreading the coronavirus infection in an uncontrolled manner, forcing entire reception centers to untimely measures of mass screening, total quarantine and a huge deployment of funds and energy”.