Barely four days after the steel and iron ore mining giant, ArcelorMittal, announced that one of its employees had tested positive for the novel Coronavirus at its concession area in Buchanan, Liberia, the company has decided to declare a total lockdown of the concession area.
That first confirmed case on the ArcelorMittal Liberia (AML) concession area in Buchanan became the first case of the virus in Grand Bassa County, following Montserrado, Margibi, Nimba, and Grand Kru where cases, some of which remain in a state of controversy, have been reported since March.
An AML release indicates that since the first case was reported on May 14, there are other cases being confirmed since May 16, 2020, all related to the first confirmed case. All of the confirmed positive case patients, however, are said to be well without showing a symptom of the virus.
With the Ministry of Health and the National Public Health Institute of Liberia overseeing the management of cases being confirmed in the concession area, the company itself is placing premium on the health protocols and measures put in place amid the state of emergency to be in strict compliance.
Going forward, according to the AML statement, the lockdown takes effect as of Tuesday, May 19, with restriction of movement in and out of the concession — “… no entry or exits, except for essential staff. Private vehicles will be denied access and essential employees who live outside of the loop will continue to go to work, but only utilizing the company’s vehicles, which will be disinfected regularly during the workday. Additionally, all residents in the concession will be required to remain indoors and not go beyond 2 meters of their home.”
The ArcelorMittal release also said that all domestic workers living outside of the concession area will be denied access for the 14 days, and security will be posted outside the home of any staff in isolation to ensure strict compliance. Ecobank and ERA supermarket branches in the loop will be closed to the public while employees working during the lockdown will be required to abide by all safety protocols including the wearing of masks, frequent hand-washing, and social distancing.
The company, while taking additional precautions to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic, maintains its core operations and employment levels. According to the release, the management of the company recognizes the threats posed by the COVID-19 and the need for a concerted effort, and has been working closely with the Government of Liberia, county Superintendents and local health authorities to combat the disease.
Meanwhile, Amid concerns that the lockdown might affect ArcelorMittal Liberia’s ongoing mining operations in Yekepa, a source told the Daily Observer that its other concession areas in Nimba (Yekepa) and Bong counties remain fully operational and are not affected by the lockdown. “The lockdown does not affect the railroad. ArcelorMittal Liberia will continue to ship ore through the port of Buchanan,” the source said.
With concern for the safety and wellbeing of staff and the public, ArcelorMittal Liberia in the release assures of its continued commitment and support to efforts to combat the spread of the Coronavirus in Grand Bassa County and across Liberia.