Legislature proposes, plus four months State of Emergency
A draft joint resolution prepared by the Liberian Senate, and under consideration by the Joint Committee of both the House of Representatives and the Senate, is proposing four months State of Emergency, instead of the 21 days already declared by President George Manneh Weah.
The draft resolution (seen by this paper) prepared by the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Judiciary for and on behalf of the Senate, Senator (Cllr) H. Varney Sherman, has observed that the state of emergency declared by President George Weah on April 8, 2020, for three weeks is “obviously very short; almost one-and-one-half (1½) weeks has already lapsed.”
The draft resolution asserted that Chapter IX of the Constitution governing Emergency Power cannot be interpreted, that the President can extend the period thereof anytime he/she wishes.
“The science of COVID-19 is that the incubation period is three (3) to fourteen (14) days and that even during the incubation period, an infected person who might be asymptomatic will be able to spread the COVID-19 disease. The containment and mitigation period for the COVID-19 disease will obviously be longer than the infection period. The State of Emergency is therefore necessary for both the Infection Period and the Containment and Mitigation Period; and that is why, instead of the State of Emergency for three (3) weeks as of the 8th day of April 2020, the State of Emergency for four (4) months as of the 8th day of April 2020 is proposed.”
Special Presidential Advisory Committee on COVID-19
The draft resolution is also requesting the two Houses to approve the establishment by the President of Liberia of a Special Presidential Advisory Committee on COVID-19 (“SPACOC”) headed by the President, which has the ” mandate to coordinate the Republic’s fight against COVID-19, to contain and mitigate the spread of COVID-19, and to explore ways and means to help ease the economic challenges posed by COVID-19 is also hereby approved.”
Further, the 14-page draft document noted that, “The establishment by the President of Liberia of an Executive Committee on Coronavirus (ECOC) as the operational arm of the Special Presidential Advisory Committee on COVID-19 (“SPACOC”), with the mandate to focus on community initiatives and outreach, is also hereby approved.”
Regarding quarantine, the draft Joint Resolution is noting that for the effectiveness of detecting and monitoring infections by the COVID-19 disease, containing its spread throughout Liberia and mitigating its scourge on all citizens and residents of the Republic, “effective retroactively as of 11:59 pm on the 8th day of April 2020 and continuing for a period of forty-five (45) days thereafter, all fifteen (15) counties of the Republic shall be quarantined; Movements between counties, except for Montserrado County and Margibi County, which are hereby quarantined as a single unit, are strictly prohibited”. The draft resolution is agreeing with the President that no person shall be allowed to enter or leave or in any way cross the border of a county into another county except by written permission of the Minister of Justice or the Minister of Health.
“The President of Liberia may, if it becomes necessary for the containment and mitigation of the spread of the COVID-19 disease extend the period of the time of the quarantine for any county or grant dispensation from the quarantine to any county based on the success of the containment and mitigation of the COVID-19 disease in the county for which dispensation is granted,” the Joint Committee proposes.
Senator (Cllr) Sherman’s draft resolution argues that quarantine for only 21 days is too short to detect infected person and to contain and mitigate spread of the COVID-19 disease. “Quarantine period for 45 days is proposed as reasonable.”
Curfew and Stay-Home Order
Retroactively, as of the 8th day of April 2020 and continuing for forty-five (45) days, “there shall be a curfew throughout the length and breadth of the Republic from 5:00 pm each day to 7:00 am the following day. No person, except members of the security apparatus of the Republic and other persons exempted by this Joint Resolution or by order of the President shall be allowed to be outside of his/her home/house during curfew hours.”
Also, for the same period of forty-five (45) days, retroactively as of the 8th day of April 2020, “all commercial places, business houses and entertainment places, and other public venues shall close not later than 3:00 pm each day.”
For the same period of forty-five (45) days, retroactively as the 8th day of April 2020, a Stay-At-Home Order is hereby imposed; during which all persons shall remain within their communities, except for necessary journeys for essential reasons, such as procurement or purchase of food, drugs, hospital visitations and any other necessities approved by the Minister of Justice or the Minister of Health. ”
Establishment of Emergency COVID-19 Relief Fund
(a) An Emergency COVID-19 Relief Fund shall be established at one (1) or two (2) commercial banks to be used to complement Liberian Government’s purchase of necessaries such as food, medicines, face masks and face shields for people who are most vulnerable to the scourge of COVID-19 and to purchase testing kits, personal protection equipment and other protective gears for contact tracers, health workers, and other persons directly in the frontline of fighting the scourge of COVID-19.
(b) The Emergency COVID-19 Relief Fund shall be funded by assessment of twenty-five percent (25%) of the net salaries of all gainfully employed persons (both in the private and public sectors) and to be deposited into the aforesaid account(s) for the period of two months (May and June, 2020). Payment to the Emergency COVID-19 Fund shall be made in the same manner as payroll taxes are collected through the Liberia Revenue Authority as the intermediary; and all moneys collected by the Liberia Revenue Authority shall be deposited into the account(s) established at the commercial bank(s) designated by the Minister of Finance and Development Planning.
(c) The Emergency COVID-19 Relief Fund may also be funded by private donations from individuals, groups of individuals, local and international organizations, foreigners, business enterprises and any other person interested in assisting the most vulnerable populations of the Republic against the scourge of COVID-19.
(d) The Emergency COVID-19 Relief Fund shall be managed by a committee of not less than five (5) eminent persons from the following categories of persons: one (1) person from the foreign business community; one (1) person from the Liberian business community; one (1) person from the inter-religious community; one (1) person from civic society organizations and professional organizations; and one (1) person from political parties. The representative from the Liberian business community shall chair the Committee; and the representative from the inter-religious Committee shall serve as co-chairperson. The President shall seek from each category of persons named herein at least three (3) persons, one of who shall be nominated to the Liberian Senate for confirmation in the same manner as any public official.
(e) Any disbursement from the Emergency COVID-19 Relief Fund shall be approved by a resolution of not less than four (4) members of the Committee and shall be restricted to only purchases of supplies and materials for the most vulnerable populations.