Vice President Joseph Boakai has expressed joy that Liberians are once more able to do their traditional handshake.
The famous Liberian handshake resumed immediately following the declaration by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Saturday, May 9, that Liberia is now Ebola virus transmission free.
Guess who did the first public handshake? To prove that the nation was now Ebola transmission free, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf shook the hands of WHO Rep., Dr. Alex Gasasira moments after he read the WHO Declaration and also US Ambassador Deborah Malac. Before that day, the President has not shaken anyone’s hand openly for more than six months, because touching is one way to spread the disease.
The declaration was made after the country had endured the torments of the horrifying virus for nearly 415 days during which it killed over 4,000 people.
The famous Liberian handshake requires both the right hands of two individuals to engage firmly together their thumbs and middle fingers in a snap, making a loud, joyful sound.
May 9 was the 359th Emergency Operations Center (EOC) Meeting day, which was being held at the Incident Management System (IMS) on 18th Street in Sinkor.
Mr. Luke Bawo, Head of Epidemic Surveillance, the man who leads the IMS group that takes stock of the daily Ebola happenings around the country, announced that the entire country was now “green,” meaning that the entire nation is now free of the viral transmission.
Even though Mr. Bawo said it, more than 100 days had passed that Lofa County, which was the entry point of the Ebola virus disease into the country, had not reported any confirmed case despite its borders with Sierra Leone and Guinea, both of which are still reporting confirmed cases of the virus.
In March 2014, a Liberian lady who was married to a Guinean crossed back into Liberia after her husband had reportedly died of the virus. She became sick and also died. It was confirmed that she had died of the virus. From that point on, the virus began to gradually spread throughout the country.
Lofa’s predominantly Muslim Quardu Gboni District was worst hit with reports of over 500 persons dying in Barkedu Town.
Lofaians came together and abandoned some of their traditional practices, including bathing and touching their dead relatives. It was a hard thing to do, but they did. Being the first to let Ebola in, it was the first to get rid of the disease.
Vice President Boakai, himself a Lofaian, having visited the county, including Barkedu during the height of the crisis, decided to go back after the WHO declaration to thank the people of the county for working together to flush out the deadly virus.
He was visibly elated to shake hands with his kinsmen and women again throughout his week-long tour of the county. He told them: “We feel that we are home now. We thank God for what He did to protect our people from Ebola. You listened to our President and kept the rules. We are happy that we can shake hands again.”