-John Ballout suggests Weah administration put in place more stringent measures to contain the deadly Coronavirus
With two cases of the Coronavirus already confirmed by health authorities in Liberia, John Ballout, former Senator of Maryland County, has warned the George Manneh Weah administration to immediately shut down all aviation operations at the Roberts International (RIA) and other local airports in the country to prevent further spread of the deadly virus.
Ballout, now a businessman, made the urgent call to President George Weah on Monday, March 17 during a brief interaction with journalists.
“I am aware of the fact that we need a lot of goods from our neighboring countries and even beyond but it is the living that consume goods and services, not the dead,” insisted Ballout.
“We should limit unnecessary travels. Now is the time to take more stringent measures than what are now put in place by government. Shut down the airports and close the land borders with Guinea, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast. Deploy military men and women and create buffer zones with thorough and very careful screening exercises for at least two weeks until we see what it will be like,” the former Senator advised.
According to Ballout, Liberia has had lots of difficult times, namely, the civil wars between 1989 and early 2000s and the outbreak of the Ebola Virus in 2014 and now is the time to ensure that no more lives are lost to a pandemic.
“We have a weak health system and the illiteracy rate is still too high. Some who are even educated, fail to abide by systems and policies that help society move forward. It is not time for any compromise, President Weah,” he warned.
He emphasized that health matters are not political matters and, as such, all Liberians and other nationals living in the country must obey the orders of the government so as to ensure that the country is safe and free from any outbreak of a deadly disease.
“When there was war in Liberia, the borders were not officially opened. People entered Liberia and the nearby countries illegally. It was tough, but God saved the lives of many of us for a reason. Therefore, we should stop worrying about the pepper, peanuts and other items we import from Guinea and Ivory Coast or Sierra Leone,” he admonished.
For now, Liberia has so far registered two confirmed cases: Nathaniel Blama, the suspended Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and another person said to have been in close contact with Blama when he returned from Switzerland where it is believed he came in touch with the Coronavirus.
Ballout said that the Ebola outbreak was a little different because not many countries were affected as it is in the case of the Coronavirus.
“When there was an outbreak of Ebola in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, we had many other countries, including great nations like America, China and France who were there to help. But in today’s case, no one is there to help. They are all affected. The world is in serious trouble and, as such, we should not sit here thinking that other countries will come to our help,” he warned.
“No doubt, this government can change the narrative. When I was in the Senate at the time Ebola struck our country, I joined my fellow Senators in drafting a resolution that mandated former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to declare a state of emergency and cancel all travels out of this country except when unavoidable.”
Ballout said people washing hands and going through temperature test is not enough to guarantee the safety of the country from a chaotic health situation.
Resist bribes, remain vigilant
“Our soldiers and other security personnel who may be working with the health workers at the borders and the airports, including the RIA, should be vigilant and resist the temptation of accepting bribes for personal benefit.
“The survival of this country is far better than a few hundred dollars anyone might take in bribe to allow the wrong thing to happen,” he noted.
He advised the Weah led government to look for every reason to take more stringent measures to block the spread of the deadly virus in the country.
Nathaniel Blama and his domestic worker, Johnny Philip, are so far the two cases the National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL) and the Ministry of Health have confirmed Coronavirus positive and quarantined.
Liberia’s health history is replete with many crises, including the lack of medical supplies, insufficient manpower capacity and poor health facilities. Other crises, such as the recent lassa fever outbreak, have exposed the country’s fragile health system over the years.