– As MOH Declares outbreak as National Health Emergency
The discovery of Liberia’s third confirmed Coronavirus case (first ‘community transmission’) has put the nation in an intense crisis mode, with this latest confirmed case having come in contact with close to 200 possible persons. And, with the source of this third case infection yet unknown the government has declared the outbreak as a “national public health emergency.”
The government through the Ministry of Health and the National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL) further instituted more stringent measures to contain further spread of the infectious and deadly disease.
The government has placed the entire Montserrado and Margibi Counties under lockdown due to concerns over the coronavirus disease. The Ministry of Health underscored these two counties as infected areas and outlined several rules and regulations to control the social behavior of people therein.
While making the declaration, Minister Wilhelmina Jallah placed both Montserrado and Margibi under what could be considered as enhanced community quarantine, which took effect late Saturday night and will continue until April 11, 2020 — a total of 21 days. The order is in keeping with Title 33, Chapter 14 of the Liberian Code of Laws Revised known as the ‘Public Health Law’, the Minister said.
She ordered the suspension of operations of practically all types of public conveyances, strongly advised against the movement of people in and out of the affected counties and mandated other measures to prevent the further spread of the virus.
“All flights will be suspended as of Monday, March 23, except chattered cargo and special flights,” the Health Minister said, adding that the Ministry of Transport and the Liberia Civil Aviation Authority will issue the appropriate note henceforth.
In regard to public transport, taxis have been ordered to convey only three passengers — two in the back and one at the front, a situation that may also cause commercial drivers to charge exorbitantly to recover fares from empty seats from those on board. Kehkeh, a popular tricycle that transports many people now, is to carry only two passengers. Motorbikes will now carry only one passenger at a time, unlike two and three that they have been carrying.
The declaration statement also notes that the Incident Management Team will work along with the Liberia Marketing Association to implement the requisite protocols for all marketing activities during this period. Government, through the order, strongly discourages the movement of people in and out of the affected areas. The government has also halted street selling by both adults and children during this period, though this has yet to be enforce.
All schools (Public, Private, Universities, Colleges, Computer Schools and other Institutions of learning) are ordered closed.
Also closed are all bars, night clubs, casinos, betting centers, cinemas, video clubs and entertainment centers and all beaches, both private and public.
Religious centers including churches and Mosques are also ordered closed, though some, such as the United Methodist Church, Lutheran Church in Liberia and the Providence Baptist Church, the nation’s oldest Church, have since put in place self-imposed restrictions. The Imam Council of Liberia and National Muslims Council of Liberia fortnight ago also banned all Islamic gathering, including worship services.
The Minister also ordered closed large gathering, to include sporting activities. “Party of more than 10 people are hereby ordered banned; weddings and funerals will be allowed with no more than 10 people in attendance and they should keep a distance of six feet away from each other at all times,” the Minister said.
Restaurants and other eateries are warned to accommodate five customers at a time with all customers keeping a distance of six feet from each other; the same measures with banks.
“Banks should only allow five people at a time into service areas and those outside the bank should keep a distance of six feet while waiting,” she said.
All barbershops and beauty salons are also ordered closed with the government warning that persons in the affected areas use the comfort of their homes to perform personal care services.
“In the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic and in an effort to keep our nation safe, the Minister of Health has declared a National Health Emergency,” she said, adding, “In keeping with Title 33, Chapter 14 of the Liberian Code of Laws Revised, known as the Public Health Law, the Minister of Health has designated Montserrado and Margibi Counties as infected areas, in which the following rules and regulations will apply immediately and remain in effect for the next 21 days. These rules and regulations take immediate effect as of today and will remain in effect for the next 21 days.”
Liberians early Thursday morning woke up to sad news that the country had discovered its third case of the COVID-19 virus. Disclosing the information, the Minister of information, cultural Affairs and Tourism, Lenn Eugene Nagbe, said the new case was 63-year-old Lenda Russ, who was immediately taken to the 14-Military Hospital to be treated. It was reported that she interacted at a Beach Party in Marshall with a friend, Lorraine Mason, who came from Italy—a source believed from whom she might have contracted the virus. However, Mrs. Mason who arrived in Liberia from Italy about a month ago and underwent an initial 14 days isolation, was tested negative by the Liberian health authorities on Sunday, March 22.
The first case was imported into the country. The first involved the suspended Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) who was tested positive upon arrival from a conference in Switzerland, while the second case was a domestic worker of the first case who contracted the disease from his boss.
The Liberian government, like other authorities in countries around the world in lock-down over the coronavirus outbreak, is warning young people to obey the rule of social distancing amid widespread reports of the disease in a social gathering.
Health authorities think revelers meetings and other social sessions, like the recent beach party in Marshall, Margibi County, are irresponsible events at such a critical time and would lead to the rapid spread of the virus.
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19, Statistics show that young people are as likely as older people to get infected and spread the virus. But younger people accordingly are far less likely to be badly affected and in 50% of cases will not even have symptoms.
Meanwhile, health authorities have confirmed that tests conducted on 13 contacts linked to the country’s first and third COVID-19 cases have tested negative.
The Director-General of National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL), Dr. Mosoka Fallah, also disclosed that after retracing the steps of the third case, NPHIL has realized that the patient came in contact with about 192 persons. The specimens of over 50 persons linked to the third case are expected to be collected Monday, March 23, for testing.