-As Liberia records first case of the highly infectious virus
Liberia has recorded its first case of the infectious COVID19, the government, through the Ministry of Health and National Public health Institute announced early Monday morning to the public.
President George Weah announced to the nation in a nationwide address that the carrier of the virus is the Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Nathaniel Blama, who had just returned from a Green Climate Fund board meeting in Switzerland, Europe. Europe at present is overwhelmed by the presence of the virus, with Italy being the country recording the highest cases outside of China, where the virus first was discovered.
According to President Weah, Blama was one of the government officials who violated preventive measures at the RIA and chose not to be quarantined as a control mechanism.
“I regret to inform you that Liberia has recorded a confirmed case of the COVID-19 virus,” President Weah announced to the nation yesterday.
“Mr. Blama arrived in Liberia on Brussels Airlines on Friday night, the 13th of March along with several other unnamed officials of Government traveling on the same flight, but, he (Blama) chose not to be quarantined, in keeping with the health protocols that were in place at the airport,” the President said.
President Weah disclosed that an intensive tracing exercise is currently ongoing to identify and test all persons with whom Mr. Blama came in contact with. “Meanwhile, all other persons who traveled on that flight and by-passed the mandatory screening protocols are being made to report to the health authorities immediately and without any further delay, for testing,” he noted.
The President has also emphasized that any other persons who attempt to by-pass screening at any port of entry will be arrested and taken into compulsory quarantine.
The news of COVID-19 presence in Liberia comes as no surprise to many, as it was just a matter of time. The nation is challenged by porous borders and a weak health system. Furthermore, those charged with the enforcement of law and order are known for excusing senior government officials from tasks often considered too routine for higher echelons, until they backfire.
The virus seems to be stamping a strong foothold in West Africa, though with fewer cases, as Liberia was one of a very few remaining countries in the region to have been untouched by COVID-19 until Monday, March 16, 2020.
This first recorded case now transitions the country from the precautionary stage to the containment stage—a point at which many believe the country is too volatile to be effective, considering the level of the national health infrastructures and medical supplies; a case that would be no different from that of Ebola in 2014.
The President, in his nationwide address, said the spread of the virus represents the greatest threat to the health and well-being of Liberians since the Ebola epidemic suffered by our country from 2014 to 2016.
He assured the country that his government is taking every precaution and action to protect the borders and ports of entry.
“I want to assure the Liberian people that the situation is under professional management by the health authorities, who have adequately prepared themselves well in advance for this eventuality. There is no need to panic. I ask that all of you should remain calm, and report any suspicious medical behavior to the authorities for our own safety,” he said.
The President, however, has announced a series of stringent measures to help consolidate the ones already instituted by the Ministry of Health and the National Public Health Institute to help put the situation under control. These include the banning of Non-essential travel by all officials of government; all non-essential employees of government being granted a paid leave until further notice, and a ban on all travels to and from countries with over 200 or more Corona Virus cases.
Additionally, President Weah asked that every individual and organization be focused on good hygiene practices; wash hands often several times a day with soap and running water using hand sanitizers wherever available and affordable; all offices, businesses, schools, churches, and places of public gathering provide hand-washing facilities at their entrances, avoid handshaking and use a nod of the head for greeting each other and public gatherings and large crowd, but should keep a minimum social distance of at least six feet away from people with fever, cough, sneezing, and difficulty in breathing.
The President in the wake of the presence of the disease has also suspended his nationwide tour indefinitely until further notice. Further, President Weah also asked Liberians to minimize their travels within Liberia, as well as to and from abroad, to that which is absolutely necessary. This refers specifically to cross-border traders and travelers coming to Liberia from infected countries, and “applies particularly to all Government officials.”
President Weah added that the government remains focused at the highest level of leadership and concern, until the threat has been neutralized. “However, as Liberia has now moved from the precautionary stage to a containment stage, we will need your fullest support and cooperation as you change your behavior to follow the simple guidelines and measures that have been recommended above.”
“We will also be relying on the cooperation and support of our international partners as we work together to eliminate this deadly virus from our country,” the President added.
Meanwhile, Liberians are now hoping and praying that the COVID19 virus does not achieve the level of devastation that the Ebola had on the country, considering the unimaginable deplorable state of the nation’s health infrastructures.