In an effort to address the severity of the Ebola outbreak in the country, the government of Liberia has with immediate effect closed all borders with the exception of major entry points including the Roberts International Airport (RIA), James Spriggs Payne Airport, Foya, Bo Waterside and Ganta points of entry.
Though others termed the decision as belated, a release from the office of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf says that at those entry points that remain open, preventive and testing centers will be established and stringent measures to be announced will be strictly adhered to. In addition, the Liberia Airport Authority is now mandated to inspect and test all incoming as well as outgoing passengers.
The decision is at the top of an 11-point to-do list for the National Task Force set up and chaired by the President to support the Technical Team on Ebola (TTE). The Task Force held its first meeting on Sunday, July 27, at the Foreign Affairs Ministry and attended by key members of the TTE, ministers and other government officials, media, political leaders, the security sector and other concerned citizens.
President Sirleaf officially announced the formation of the Ebola Task Force in her Independence Day remarks at Liberia’s 167th Independence Day ceremony in Monrovia to help the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and team of medical practitioners combat the deadly Ebola virus that has invaded the country and claimed hundreds of lives.
The Liberian leader said the cardinal responsibility of the Taskforce is to work with the health team headed by the Ministry of Health, and provide support and guidance to them. The task force will also establish community outreach forces with individuals mobilized from each community to reach out to the communities to sensitize residents about the disease and provide them information as to how they can protect themselves.
The taskforce is to be chaired by the President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and Co-chaired by the Minister of Internal Affairs, Morris Dukuly, who is also the chairman of the national Disaster and Relief Commission (NDRC). It will also include representatives from Women and Youths organizations, the Inter-Religious Council, Market and Labor organizations, Political Parties leaders, Traditional leaders, and the Press Union of Liberia (PUL).
“Fellow citizens,” the Liberian President said, “the hallmark of success of any nation is not the improvement in social and economic infrastructures; it is not in sound policies and law; it is the love of country. This love must make us brave in times of troubles as well as compel us to reach out to each others in times of distress.”
“We must come together as never before inspite of our political, religious and social persuasions; we must show a deep sense of nationalism. We must reach across borders and join our brothers and sisters in the other neighboring countries that are also affected to show continuing common response,”
“This is why today I’m establishing a national taskforce on Ebola, which I will chair. The taskforce will be co-chaired by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, in his role as the chairman of the NDRC. That commission will now be active and strengthened,” she said.
“We are going to be calling upon women and youth organizations, the Inter-religious Council, market and labor organizations, political party leaders, traditional leaders, and the Press Union of Liberia to send us representatives to serve on this taskforce.”
To the families of all those affected and afflicted by the virus, to our doctors, and the national health team led by Dr. Walter Gwenigale, to our dedicated and sacrificial health workers, we extend to you our deepest personal and official sympathy for your loss and commit to our obligation to respond to you in your time of need.
“Given the many challenges which we have faced, we mark the 167th independence anniversary of our nation with solemn reflection. Even as we do, we must continue to give praises and thanks to the almighty for continuing to shower his bountiful blessings and kind mercies upon us,”
The issue of Ebola has now claimed the attention of the international community as more people continue to die of the virus since its outbreak in the Mano River Union (MRU), firstly in Guinea where it has hit the hardest. Ivory Coast is the only member of the MRU yet to be affected so far though it claimed some lives in that country years back.
As confirmed by the governments of the three MRU countries and the World Health Organization (WHO), there have been 1,093 cases recorded as of July 20, 2014 with 786 laboratory confirmed cases of the Ebola virus. The death toll in the three countries now hit 660.
President Sirleaf also said that the Ebola virus has gone beyond a virus that is claiming the lives of Liberians and is becoming more dangerous to the state by some unfortunate incidents.
“On Wednesday we witnessed an unfortunate incident when a man angered over the death of his sister who died of Ebola decided to revenge, by setting fire to the MOH building. This is how damaging the virus has become; this is how the risk and the danger now go beyond the virus. We understand the anger, but we cannot and will not accept burning or attacking health workers and facilities.
In another event, the Liberian leader said, another Liberian met his untimely death and put to risk others across borders because of indiscipline and disrespect for the advice which have been given by health workers. While she did name the Liberian she was referring to, the Government of Nigeria reported late last week that the virus had surfaced in that country through Patrick Sawyer, a Liberian who had gone on an official government duty.
So far there have been 415 cases, including 314 fatal cases and 304 laboratory confirmations of EVD, reported by the Guinean government.
In Sierra Leone, WHO and that country’s Ministry of Health and Sanitation reported a total of 454 suspects and confirmed cases of EHF as of July 20, 2014. Of these 454, 405 cases have been laboratory confirmed and 219 were fatal.
The lead doctor, virologist Sheik Umar Khan, who has been helping to combat the virus in that country has contracted the virus and is now being treated according to reports.
Liberia’s Health and Social Welfare Minister, Dr. Walter Gwenigale, has recorded 224 clinical cases of EVD, including 77 laboratory confirmations and 127 fatal cases. All of these cases are from six counties. These include, Lofa, Montserado, Margibi, Bomi, Bong, and Nimba Counties. Montserrado and Lofa are the most affected.