Barely days after the World Health Organization (WHO) made the alarming prediction of 90,000 Liberian deaths from Ebola by mid-December contrary to credible reports on the ground indicating a slowing down of the virus, WHO yesterday made an incredible U-turn.
WHO now agrees that the virus is waning in Liberia, supporting government officials’ position that progress in the fight against the Ebola Virus Disease is being made.
Commented journalist Alvin Worzi of the Daily Observer, “It shows we are making progress and what we need now are holding centers where those who are suspected of the virus can isolate themselves for the required period.”
Liberians are pleased that sustained efforts coupled with preventive measures have resulted in our progress in the fight against Ebola and must be continued, Worzi said.
In its editorial yesterday, the Daily Observer examined the implications of the alarming and apocalyptic predictions of not only the WHO but also the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Yale Scientists, reported by the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases, which also warned that by mid-December 171,000 will be infected and 90,000 not might, but will die.
“It would then suggest that we were doing nothing here,” said 22-year-old university student, James Kollie, who spoke to the Daily Observer yesterday.
Mr. William K. Guyan, 66, told the Daily Observer that with the change of position, WHO is confirming what Liberian officials have said that progress is being made, noting, “It means we must continue the fight to defeat the virus.”
Mr. Arthur Solomon, 38, a street vendor commented that “WHO’s reversal means that now they have correct information to agree with Liberian officials that their efforts are paying off.”
“It’s also due to the effective global response, including tracing infected persons as well as those they might have come in contact with, that the WHO is able to calm the fears of Liberians by stating that infections are slowing down,” stated Richelieu Barclay, 42, of Monrovia.
In a release yesterday, WHO's Assistant Director General, Bruce Aylward, said he is confident the response to the virus is now gaining the upper hand, but warned against any suggestion that the crisis was over, the identical position of Liberian officials, including James Dorbor Jallah, head of Logistics at the Incident Management System.
Aylward said the new number of cases globally was 13,703 and that the death toll, expected to be published yesterday, would probably exceed 5,000.
The figure of 13,703 is a significant leap on the previous WHO situation report on Saturday, which showed cases rising above 10,000 for the first time to 10,141.
But Dr. Aylward said that this increase was due to data being updated with old cases, rather than new cases being reported. Saturday's situation report put the death toll at 4,922.
Liberia's Red Cross said its teams collected 117 bodies last week, down from a high of 315 in September. Treatment centers also have empty beds available for patients.
The slowdown is real
Dr Aylward said: "It appears that the trend is real in Liberia and there may indeed be a slowing."
"Do we feel confident that the response is now getting an upper hand on the virus? Yes, we are seeing a slowing rate of new cases, very definitely."
Dr Aylward said there had been "a huge effort to inform the population about the disease, to change the behaviors that put them at risk".
And he said there had been "a real step up in the work to put in place safe burials".
But Dr Aylward said the data was still being examined and cautioned against thinking the crisis was over.
He said: "A slight decline in cases in a few days versus getting this thing closed out is a completely different ball game. It's like saying your pet tiger is under control."
The vast majority of cases and deaths from the disease have been in three countries, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
On Wednesday, South Africa's first black billionaire, Patrice Motsepe, donated $1m (£620,000) to Guinea to help the country fight Ebola.
The mining magnate said he hopes the donation will assist with clinical management, social mobilization and other key steps in controlling the deadly virus. His donation was announced as the US welcomed the international aid effort.
America's UN envoy Samantha Power, who has been concluding her visit to the region, praised the efforts of Ebola-hit nations and foreign donors and urged them to continue to help. Her final stop was the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response in Accra, Ghana. She will now fly on to Brussels.
A winnable war
Meanwhile, a source at the Ministry of Health & Social Welfare told the Daily Observer late last night that nationwide, there are 279 confirmed cases, and urged Liberians and all to be vigilant in taking measures because, “it is a winnable war, if we continue the fight.”