— As Dr. Nyan frowns on government’s decision to lift the state of emergency
Liberia has recorded its highest-ever daily increase of Covid-19 as the country returns to normal activities.
According to data from the National Public Health Institute of Liberia, the country on June 12 recorded 25 new cases, and an additional 12 cases on June 13, bringing the country’s total COVID-19 infection tally to 458 (207 active), with 32 deaths and 219 recoveries so far.
The June 12 spike in cases comes less than two weeks after the first one on June 3, in which 15 people were diagnosed with the virus in a single day. Since then, Liberia coronavirus cases have been increasing by more than 10 for the past 9 days starting from June 5.
Both spikes occurred as the government began easing its restrictions by allowing commercial and religious centers to reopen. This has led to serious downplay of COVID-19 health protocols—social distancing, wearing of masks, and handwashing.
While Liberia still has relatively low active cases, which stands at 207, Dr. Dougbeh Nyan, a Liberian infectious disease expert based in the US, said the premature lifting of the state of emergency is one of the major reasons why cases are on the increase.
According to Dr. Nyan, the lifting of the state of emergency increases the movements of people, which consequently facilitates the spread of the virus.
“It is an alarming sign because the regulation put in place to contain the spread of the virus during the SOE period was not properly implemented by the government and adhered to by the people,” said Dr. Nyan.
“If we do adequate testing, the numbers will definitely increase,” Dr. Nyan said. “Liberia COVID-19 cases are more than what is reported because of limited testing capacity. My fear is the limitation of the country’s health system to handle a massive outbreak, which might lead the health system to collapse, and the aftermath of this will be terrifying,” Nyan added.
Dr. Nyan added that the government also erred by lifting the SOE without putting in place mechanisms to promote adherence to health protocols including wearing face masks, hand washing, and social distancing.
It is not clear yet what the government used as a benchmark to relax the health protocols; however, some believe that because of the economic distress many citizens are facing as a result of the lockdown saw it expedient to call off the lockdown despite the risk associated.
President Weah, on the issue of reopening the country after months of lockdown, said: “Given the country’s level of experience with the Coronavirus and its mode of transmission, the strides being made in its containment and in view of developments in other countries, the need for further extension of the constitutional measure is not required.”
“Whether full restrictions or not, people will still get the virus and die. This is something that you cannot stop. But if we allow the economy to cripple, it will affect us more than the COVID-19,” said a presidential aide. We cannot fight this virus without money, so, the restriction has to be eased.”
In support of Dr. Nyan’s argument, a COVID-19 case investigator working with the Montserrado County Health team, who spoke to this paper on condition of anonymity, said the early easing of restrictions by the government is the reason why all of the gains made during the partial lockdown are being lost.
The source added the current infection rate trend is alarming, but it is the beginning of more to come once the country does more testing and people continue to disregard social distancing rules.
“The partial lockdown or state of emergency helped us to contain the spread and reduce the infection. But since the countries began to re-open, cases start to increase, which is a serious concern,” the source said.
Meanwhile, the uptick in numbers follows an increase in testing, which means 12 of the 15 counties now have confirmed cases of COVID-19 with Montserrado County recording the highest number of cases – 385.
Next to Montserrado is Margibi County, with 30 cases, followed by Nimba County with 12, Gbarpolu, 7, Grand Bassa, 9, Bong County 5, Lofa 4. Others, including Maryland, River Gee, Sinoe, and Bomi have recorded one case each.
Reports about the increase in COVID-19 infection rate come as the country prepares to reopen its international airport by June 21, while 12th-grade students begin classes this June to enable them to prepare for their West African Secondary School Certificate Examination (WASSCE).