MOH on Omicron: ‘No Need to Panic’

... As Health Minister Dr. Jallah calls for calm over the Omicron COVID-19 variant reports

While the Omicron COVID-19 variant is “a cause for concern, the public should not panic about it,” Liberia’s Minister of Health, Dr. Wilhelmina Jallah has said. 

“We do not have that variant here in Liberia but we just want all Liberians to be aware that the Omicron is in other countries and, since we all travel and we are living in a global community that any variant can cross and come to your country so we just want to raise this alert,” Dr. Jallah disclosed.

Dr. Jallah added that while the virus is still out of Liberia’s shores, the country has increased its surveillance and alertness for travelers coming to Liberia via the Robert International Airport and all ports of entry, which has led to more testing.

 “We were able to test all of them, but we cannot reveal their test result. However, if the test result is concerning, we will come back to the Liberian people,” she said. “We will continue our testing upon arrival and we are looking at those countries that have Omicron identified there. We will make sure that once you come from that country, you are put on precautionary observation for one week,”   Dr. Jallah said while appearing at the Ministry of Information Culture and Tourism (MICAT) press briefing yesterday.

Omicron, which was first discovered in South Africa a week ago, has been classified as a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization.  Early evidence suggests it has a heightened re-infection risk and it is heavily mutated and that it is highly transmissible. 

The variant is now responsible for most of the infections in Europe and South Africa over the last two weeks and raised alarm across the world, with some countries including the United States and the United Kingdom imposing a travel ban on countries where the virus is being reported to decrease the further spread. The newest variant has become the fifth variant to surface since the emergence of COVID-19 in 2019.  

Min. Jallah has however reminded the local and foreign residents, who have not yet taken their vaccines, to get the jab since the vaccine remains the best way to prepare and prevent the Omicron variant.

News about the mutated variant comes as Liberia is about to celebrate its bicentennial anniversary, beginning in December 2021, marking 200 years since the first repatriates left New York and headed for Africa, landing in what is today Liberia in 1821. The plan for the bicentennial has already begun with the government targeting about 1,000 persons from the Diaspora, with a good number of them being Liberians who are expected here this year.

 Meanwhile,  Adolphus Clarke, Director Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) said “As of this morning we have been able to vaccinate a total of 587,829 persons.” 

Of that number, Clarke said 477,276 people are fully vaccinated.  395,094 people have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccines and as per the country's population, he said Liberia stands at 13%.

According to him, these numbers reveal that many people have not taken their vaccines, therefore MOH is calling on every citizen to ensure that they are vaccinated. “We need everyone to be brought on board at least from now to the end of December 2021 we will be able to vaccinate 40% percent of our total population.” 

“We want to vaccinate between now and December 31, 2021, at least 40% percent of the entire country's population. Liberia has a population of approximately 5.5 million people. We have just been able to reach a little over 500,000 and still have 1.3 million-plus to vaccinate,” Clarke added. 

Additionally, Clarke added that 15 days of mass vaccination will be done in six counties including Bong, Grand Bassa, Margibi, Lofa, Nimba, and Montserrado Counties beginning  December 4, 2021. The EPI boss has disclosed that the country will on December 6, 2021, receive 92,430 of Pizer COVID-19 for 12 years and older. 

Also,  Dr. Peter Clement, WHO Representative has called on the public to rethink and adhere to all of the preventive measures and take the vaccine.

According to him, Africa as a continent has only vaccinated 5%of its population. “The vaccines are available, they are free. We can't fight Omicron by panic, not by fear but by following up on the preventive measures and vaccines and improving the testing,” he said.