As Transport Minister Wlue refuses quarantine
Coronavirus may have reached the shores of Liberia, but it might soon lead to an outbreak as the government announced another positive case just a day after Nathaniel Blama, the suspended head of the Environmental Protection Agency, tested positive for the virus.
The new case involves Johnny Phillips, a worker in the home of Blama, who tested positive for the virus after coming in close contact with his boss.
Although the actual number of people that Blama got in contact with while ill are still being traced, the government has disclosed that it has conducted tests on five of the primary contacts of the first case of the Coronavirus disease in the country, four have tested negative.
So far, the government has said it had documented 127 contacts — 23 high-risk and 104 low-risk contacts since the former EPA boss came down with the virus. The contacts, according to the government, included the driver of the suspended boss of the EPA and another person who is said to have accompanied Blama to Switzerland.
Despite this, experts say the country is still at risk of a major spillover from the two coronavirus cases because of the 23 high-risk individuals identified by the government.
They added the fact that some people may carry the virus without showing any symptoms, though the incubation period for the coronavirus is 2 to 14 days after exposure, which is another reason why there is huge potential for a larger outbreak in the country.
“Health workers have determined that Phillips was a primary contact of Mr. Blama when he returned to his residence,” a release from the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism (MICAT) said this morning. “They are continuing to trace and test several primary and secondary persons who he might have come in contact with. This exercise is continuing vigorously.”
Despite the negative tests, MICAT added the National Public Health Institute of Liberia has decided to keep all five primary contacts under special quarantine observation for another round of tests in 7 days.
“NPHIL has expressed optimism that Blama and Phillips, who continue to be in stable condition, will make full recovery—and that health authorities continue to trace all primary and secondary contacts of the index cases to have them tested,” the MICAT release, under the signature of its Minister Eugene Nagbe, said.
According to the release, President George Weah has mandated NPHIL to create additional testing centres to be able to cope with the need for more testing.
“The President has also instructed Finance Minister Samuel Tweah and Foreign Affairs Minister Gbehzohngar Findley to work closely with the Ministry of Health to bring in the country additional testing and treatment equipment,” the release disclosed.
Transport Minister Refused Quarantine?
However, efforts to contain the spread of the virus might experience a serious setback as some officials of government who have returned from foreign countries, where the virus is wreaking havoc, have reportedly refused to be quarantined.
One of those individuals is Samuel Wlue, the Minister of Transport, who returned a few days ago from Italy, the county that now has the single highest infection rate outside of China, and refused to be quarantined.
According to FrontPage Africa, the minister, upon his return from Italy, called a staff meeting but the majority of the ministry staff refused to show up due to fear of Coronavirus.
Currently, Italy has 27,980 confirmed cases of the Coronavirus and 2,158 deaths and 2,749 recoveries.
While the health status of Min. Wlue remains known, his ability to slip through the screening and monitoring protocol of health authorizes raises serious concern about the President’s mandate that ALL persons from Coronavirus affected countries be subject to quarantine and testing.
The reason for this is that the country’s first reported case came as the result of Blama allegedly breaching precautionary health measures at the Roberts International Airport to prevent the spread of the virus.
However, in reaction to the Frontpage Africa article, Min. Wlue said the article is erroneous and doesn’t contain the facts.
“I am of the stronger conviction that our service to the country remains genuine and, as such, will not endanger the lives of many, including the lives of my family. Also, there has never been a moment that I have violated or breached protocol using my position as minister. That I have not, and will not,” he said.
According to Min. Wlue, his official government trip to Italy took place between February 18 and 26, 2020 and he went through proper screening at the airport.
News about Min. Wlue’s alleged refusal to be quarantined comes just a day after NPHIL Acting Director-General, Dr. Mosoka Fallah, disclosed that Rep. Dixon Seeboe of Montserrado County District #16 has agreed to test for the virus, after having returned from Spain about two weeks ago and has not undergone precautionary observation since then.
“No system is fool-proof; there were cracks – we had over 240 persons that we took [under quarantine] and it cost the government so much money to keep them in precautionary observation centre and we were convinced that no matter how the system is, there will be the possibility of cracks,” Dr Fallah said Monday during a press conference.
Meanwhile, NPHIL has disclosed that the suspended EPA boss was the one who turned himself in for testing days after his trip from Switzerland.
The NPHIL clarification comes at a time when the President accused Blama of choosing not to be quarantined, evading health protocols.
According to NPHIL, Blama was the one who self-reported to them “on March 15 at about 10:43 a.m. and a sample was collected and tested at the National Public Health Reference Laboratory.”
“The positive test result was received at 3 a.m. on 16th March 2020. This is the first confirmed case to be reported in Liberia since the beginning of the pandemic in China in December 2019. Within 12 hours, the case-patient had been isolated, contact identification, listing, and monitoring commenced, and National Public Health Emergency declared and WHO notified,” NPHIL said.