— As U.S. Embassy announces ‘robust support’ to Liberia’s COVID-19 response
The government through the National Public Health Institute has reported three additional cases—bringing the country’s total cases number to six.
In a Facebook post, NPHIL reported that it has confirmed 3 new cases just a day after informing the public of three suspected cases and less than two weeks after the country’s second case was reported.
According to Health Minister Wilhelmina Jallah during a live broadcast on ELBC Radio, two of the three new cases relates to Nathaniel Blama, Liberia’s index case. The two persons, Dr. Jallah explained, include the driver and security of the index case.
Blama, the executive director of the Environmental Protection Agency, tested positive for the virus on Monday, March 16, after he arrived from attending a government function in Switzerland few days earlier.
However, the most confusing thing about Blama driver’s situation is that he came in contact with his boss on March 13, 2020, from a trip in Switzerland was announced free from the virus on March 18, 2020, after being tested negative. Blama was tested positive for the virus three days later and was diagnosed with the coronavirus on March 16, 2020.
Dr. Jallah further said an additional test done on the country first three confirmed cases on Tuesday proved negative after having been tested along with the specimens of fifty-three contacts.
Meanwhile, NPHIL Director General-designate, Dr. Mosoka Fallah, said those tested positive of the virus are already under quarantine and the COVID-19 suspect from Grand Gedeh County has been tested negative, while another round of test is expected soon.
However, Drs. Fallah and Jallah, fell short of giving any information on the three new cases, whether they were previously suspected cases that have been under observation and quarantine for quite some time; or whether their contacts have been traced as well.
The NPHIL on March 31, 2020, informed the Liberian public that the country’s three initial confirmed cases are in admission and clinically stable but had six suspected cases in isolation (Montserrado- 4, Grand Gedeh-1, and Bong-1), pending testing.
The NPHIL added 434 contacts including 40 health workers have been documented and that 5 contacts discharged from quarantine as well as 13 contacts have tested negative for the virus. However, the NPHIL did not provide a status report on the country’s 45 high-risk cases, the number which is included in the 434 contacts.
Meanwhile, hours after the Government of Liberia announced the three new cases, the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia, announced its provision of approximately US$40 million to Liberia’s health sector, part of its nearly $100 million in annual assistance.
According to the US Embassy, this funding will also help to support Liberia’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are working closely with the Liberian Ministry of Health, the National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL), and healthcare workers across the country,” the U.S. Embassy said in a statement on Wednesday, April 1. Earlier that day, a special flight from the United States brought a vital supply of “Superscript,” an essential component for COVID-19 testing with the reagents already available in Liberia. On its return to the United States, this same aircraft will support the State Department’s global mission to take home American citizens who have asked for assistance in returning to the United States.
According to the statement, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to support the RIDERS for Health Network, which is transporting lab samples across Liberia during this outbreak.
“CDC is also supporting the training of contact tracers through its Field Epidemiology Training Program and Infection, Prevention and Control training for health care workers. At the same time, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is providing support to healthcare worker case management, infection prevention and control training, and facility readiness among 13 health facilities in Montserrado county, including Redemption and JFK Hospitals, and assisting with contact tracing and case investigation in Montserrado county. In addition, USAID is supporting staffing and functionality of the 4455 call-in centres at NPHIL,” the statement said.
In addition to the U.S. Mission’s work in Montserrado and Margibi counties, the Embassay said, USAID is also providing support to point of entry surveillance through the Food and Agriculture Organization and county-level training and preparedness for lab and health workers in Bong, Nimba, and Lofa counties.
“USAID is also supporting the re-broadcast of radio shows led by NPHIL, CDC, and WHO experts to community radio stations across Liberia in order to amplify messages about preparedness and prevention of COVID-19. As Secretary Pompeo said, our assistance in this fight “builds upon decades of U.S. leadership in global health and humanitarian assistance,” the statement said. “Since 2009, American taxpayers have generously funded more than $100 billion in health assistance and nearly $70 billion in humanitarian assistance globally. Our country continues to be the single largest health and humanitarian donor for both long-term development and capacity building efforts with partners, and emergency response efforts in the face of recurrent crises.”
In a related development, Information Minister Eugene Nagbe has said the government might introduce stringent measures to fight the virus but it will be based on expert advice.
However, Min. Nagbe the government is now exercising all the political will because it is waiting on the advice of experts before introducing new measures and they are closely working with Health Authorities and partners to monitor the scale at which new measures can be enforced.