‘Liberia’s Coronavirus Cases Might Be More Than Reported’

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Dr. Dougbeh Chris Nyan, CEO, Shufflex Biomed

– Says Infectious Disease Scientist, Dr. Dougbeh Chris Nyan

Liberia’s Infectious Disease Scientist, Dr.  Dougbeh Chris Nyan, says the country’s three positive coronavirus cases may be an under-representation of the actual number of infectious persons since there is far less testing being conducted for the coronavirus.

Dr. Nyan says while Liberia 3 positive cases after about three weeks are cautiously welcoming, the true number of cases can only be determined if massive testing is carried out since research has shown that there are lots of people who can be infected (silent carriers) and do not show symptoms.

“Government’s announcement of still having only 3 positive cases after about three weeks is cautiously welcoming, but raises serious public health questions,” Dr. Nyan added. “With far less testing for COVID-19 conducted in the population during the last three-week period, I think the three positive cases is an under-representation of the actual number and rate of COVID-19 infections in the Liberian population. This may be due to a shortage of COVID-19 testing kits that most African countries are presently faced with.”

According to Dr. Nyan, COVID-19, “which we also call SARS-CoV-2, tricks the body not to show symptoms in some infected persons; therefore, any further delay in massive testing means a continual increase of asymptomatic cases, which will complicate efforts to stop the spread of the disease.

“I believe that there are plenty of infected asymptomatic carriers of the virus that are not yet tested due to the apparent lack of mass testing in Liberia,” Dr. Nyan, who is a Liberian based in the USA, said. “Once we begin to conduct mass testing, that number will exponentially increase drastically from 3 cases upward. This is the same pattern we are now observing in other countries like the US, Spain, Turkey, and South Africa. Therefore, there is a need for more testing so that we are not under the illusion that Liberia has only three positive cases. In the Bible, it is stated that Seek and ye shall find. The more we test, the more we will find.”

Dr. Nyan’s remarks about Liberia’s cases came a few days after health authorities disclosed that they have identified at least 390 contacts including 40 health workers to have come in contact with the three existing cases, which constitute “low and high-risk contacts.”

Out of the 390 contacts so far, health authorities have said 45 are of high-risk cases including a one suspected case.

“As of this morning, we had 390 contacts; of that number, 45 are high-risk. What we usually do is to go after our high-risk cases; after testing, 24 of those cases are negative after the first test. Once you are negative after the second test you are off the list and you are allowed to self-quarantine from home. Whether we have covered all the contacts is a tricky question to answer because it determines whether the person is saying the truth,” said Dr. Mosoka Fallah, Director General-designate for the National Public Health Institute of Liberia last week during his confirmation hearing at the Liberian Senate.

According to Dr. Fallah, the country has only twenty thousand test kits and more are expected from friendly governments to facilitate testing of suspected cases and traced contacts, and that the government of President George Weah has made available only US$750,000 out of US$3 million that health authority requested in late January to combat the virus.

Howerver, according to Dr. Nyan, the Liberian government should be disappointed in itself for making promises to the Liberian people that it is not kept or fulfilled, which, according to him, is putting people’s lives at risk.

Dr. Nyan added that it is time that the government stood up and stopped its continuous dependence on donations all of the time, “as we do not even know the quality and accuracy of COVID-19 testing kits being donated to our country in Africa.”

“It is unfortunate that the government has yet to make available the full $3 million promised to the NPHIL to combat the COVID-19 Pandemic.  This makes the work of the NPHIL very difficult to perform and this puts the health of the population at risk of a pervasive COVID-19 pandemic.  I hope President George Weah will do something about this urgently. The government has to make healthcare a priority, because there may be another infectious disease outbreak a few years from now after the present COVID-19 Pandemic,” Dr. Nyan said.

Dr. Nyan added that the current Pandemic the country is faced with could have been properly addressed with monies that disappeared from the government without a trace of proper accountability.

He said: “So when the people demonstrate and say ‘Bring Back Our Money,’ fighting this COVID-19 pandemic is exactly what some of the missing LD$16 billion and US$25 million could have been used for. Some of that money could have been used to train enough public health personnel and healthcare workers to produce our own diagnostic testing kits, to conduct our own medical research, to provide medications and equipment like ventilators in the hospitals and clinics, and to provide other basic social needs of the impoverished people of Liberia.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Nyan has expressed his disappointment in some pastors who have been violating the social–distancing order by organizing large prayer gatherings in Monrovia. He said the gatherings were a perfect recipe for person-to-person transmission of the COVID-19 in the population and it shows a weakness in the public awareness of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Hence, more needs to be done to educate the public about the pandemic by public service announcements on all radios in the country, organized community engagements, and rigorous enforcement of the stay-at-home orders as well as restrictions on internal travels. Everyone needs to stay in place for at least three to four weeks for the public health personnel to carry on the work monitoring, contact-tracing, mass testing for COVID-19 infection, isolation, quarantine, and treatment if needed for some patients,” he said.

In a related development, Dr. Nyan said the pending gasoline shortage in the country if not addressed sooner, will be a major problem in the government’s efforts to combating the COVID-19 Pandemic.

“It will make it difficult to operate the ambulances that are needed to transport patients; it will hinder the movement of healthcare workers and public health personnel,” Dr. Nyan said.  “If we have well-enforced social-distancing orders in place, we should not be too worried about long queues at the petrol stations.”

9 COMMENTS

  1. Nyan’s suggestion must be taken seriously. More testing while social distancing is the right way to go! The killer Coronavirus has no passport neither does it respect the poor or the rich. So the best way to contain its stupid aggression is to test people regardless of whether someone is a high profile person or a proletarian.

  2. Under the caption of the March 17, 2020 issue of the Daily Observer titled: Blama’s Domestic Worker, second Liberian tested positive for Corona Virus, I stated the comments below, some of which I have interpolated in this latest posting for clarity and precision.

    In that post I asked, “Can this incident come close to the disappearance of 16 bln LDs and 25 mln USDs respectively under the Weah administration? These monies would have gone a long way in saving millions of Liberians’ lives from hunger and starvation, deaths from curable disease, providing scholarship funds to train and educate our citizens in medicine, agriculture and food crops production, and so forth. The prodigious and implied effects from such a loss of the national wealth are haunting the nation and will continue to haunt the nation for generations unborn.”

    A closer examination of some of Dr. Nyan’s current remarks incredibly re-enforce some of my questions, reactions, and concerns about this serious crisis.

    The need exists for the government to listen to this very knowledgeable and credible health expert and act on his recommendations. Unfortunately, they might soon brand him as one of those, “Public enemy number one,” because he refused to politicize this deadly pandemic and compromise the lives of our poor, huddled masses for peanuts.

    Thanks to Dr. Nyan for his invaluable input because his actions took a lot of nerves and summoning of courage to speak truth to power.

  3. More testing must be carried out as recommended by Dr. Nyan. Also, I want to mention here that, the current health problem Liberia faces at the moment; should not be mixed with politics. If you are to fast-track the fight against COVID 19 as a country.

  4. They hear you , but they are waiting for the 15 million US dollars from the World Bank, even with that money, they are not prepared to purchase testing kit, but wait for handouts donations from any nation that is willing to give it to them. So what plans are there to use the 15 million US dollars ? None. Perhaps only personal plans. 15 million US dollars is nothing compared to the 25 million US dollar that went unaccountable , and the one hundred million US dollars. So what is 15 million US dollars to the regime, when China will bring in the medical kit for testing free. 15 million US dollars will be just another spending money for the regime. One can hear them saying, Happy Days Are Here Again. Cause what the citizens do not know will not hurt them at all.

  5. The government needs to count on expert’s concern to increase testing for COVID-19. Our experience here in Australia tells us that acting early makes a difference between death and survival for most people.

    Considering the global trend as we continue to learn, this is likely going to be the biggest Biosecurity challenge depending on how and when we act as a government and nation. This means public, private and the 3rd sector actors work together to integrate our response. What we are seeing in the country so far can’t match the challenge ahead especially in the context of limited resources as we know.
    Effectively responding to this pandemic is beyond the usual political disagreements we are used to in this country. We are seeing great Nations struggling already, we cannot rely entirely on hand-out. If we failed to act effectively, it could lead to serious national security change and alter our nation as we know it to date.

    Let us act now to build the capacity of the health sector and other auxiliary support services to response effectively. Thanks to our Doctors, Nurses and the support staff for their continuous preparation in the context limited resource. Thank you. I also recognised the security sector for their effort in recent times with regards to this pandemic response. Keep working with the population to minimise the infection rate so our people can stay free of Coronavirus. May God bless Liberia and humanity.

  6. Well spoken Dr. Nyan. Our government mustn’t always relied on donations, for some of the items donated are of very poor quality which when used may caused more harm than good to our people. They should make available to the health ministry the full 3million given to them by World Bank to combat this coronavirus.
    Thank you so much Dad, for sharing with us your great expertise and providing such a mentorship to our people. May God continuously bless you….

    Dr.Jerry Nekehwon Kehleay
    Medical practioner.
    Republic of Liberia.

  7. Liberia does have the capacity, neither the resources nor the man-power to test every Liberian for COVID-19. It MAY CAUSE PANIC and hysteria throughout the country. People may leave the country or hide themselves in the bushes to avoid testing. The potential for mass false positives or false negatives may be overwhelming. Continue to enforce social distancing and testing those who may show signs and symptoms of the disease (high risk groups such as the elderly and those with underlying health problems, i.e. heart disease, asthma, COPD, Hepatitis A & B, TB, etc.).

  8. Liberia does not have the capacity, neither the resources nor the man-power to test every Liberian for COVID-19. It MAY CAUSE PANIC and hysteria throughout the country. People may leave the country or hide themselves in the bushes to avoid testing. The potential for mass false positives or false negatives may be overwhelming. Continue to enforce social distancing and testing those who may show signs and symptoms of the disease (high risk groups such as the elderly and those with underlying health problems, i.e. heart disease, asthma, COPD, Hepatitis A & B, TB, etc.).

  9. Great disposition, Comrade Dr. C. Dugbeh Nyan, an interview that is well placed from a medi-Scientific point, given your scientific knowledge on the subject matter. I pray that Government, Civil and religious society, and private individuals and Diaspora organizations will come to the aid of the Liberian people absolutely free of politics! Let us each search ourselves and find ways to solve this Worldly pandemic before Liberia becomes an epicenter of Coronavirus. There were much needed resources that were selfishly pillaged and/or siphoned in foreign lands by past governments that could be available today to go to the purchasing of test kits. A single Liberian man family in the past wantonly corrupted public monies, broke down profitable institutions and came back and misled the young Weah’s Administration into a quickly corrupt machinery that make us today still discussing about the supposedly missing 16 billion dollars under President George Manneh Weah, even at a time the World, including Liberia is facing this deadliest Coronavirus. I hope and pray that the Government will make the remaining payment to the NPHIL to do its work.

    Again, thank you Dr. Nyan for this brilliant piece except that “Baboon will still remain the ugliest specie on Planet Earth.”

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