Says infectious disease scientist Nyan
Infection disease scientist, Dr. Dougbeh Chris Nyan, has said that the decision of the government to prioritize food distribution instead of sound medical response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic is ‘misplaced.’
Dr. Nyan argued that the US30 million earmarked for food distribution would have had more impact had it gone towards obtaining more COVID-19 testing kits, building more treatment centers, getting more PPEs, and paying healthcare workers so as to break the chain of transmission.
“I do not see the rationale or impact this food distribution will make when the people are now out and fending for their daily lives. There is no need for this feeding program now since people are no longer indoors,” Nyan argues.
“That money, if properly accounted for, can be used for massive testing. Strong case investigations are important in containing any pandemic, and this money could have gone to obtaining more and accurate COVID-19 testing kits, enough PPEs and incentives for health workers who are risking their lives on the frontlines,” he stressed.
Dr. Nyan further argued that the fund in question would have improved the country’s weak testing system to stop the spread of the disease by identifying asymptomatic carriers while also gaining a better understanding of the virus impacts on communities.
According to Dr. Nyan, the fast uptick in the country COVID-19 cases is due to poor planning in its COVID-19 pandemic response, lack of sound strategy for medical response to the ongoing pandemic, as well as the lack effective implementation of healthcare regulations against a virus that is spread from person-to-person.
“I have said before that the COVID-19 pandemic planning, response, and priorities of the Liberian government are misplaced and very confused. I do not see the rationale or impact this food distribution will make when the people are now out and fending for their own daily lives,” he said in an exclusive interview with the Daily Observer recently.
Dr. Nyan added that the sudden increase in coronavirus cases across the country is a clear indication that the virus has been spreading drastically and cementing its place and that it is “here to stay.”
As thing stands, Liberia has 646 cases of coronavirus infection, jumping by nearly 150 cases in just one week since the country began easing restrictions few weeks ago. Currently, Montserrado and Margibi counties have the highest numbers of cases respectively.
The US-based Liberian infectious diseases expert added that “the actual number of Liberia coronavirus cases are more than what the government is reporting which is the result of limited testing.”
Dr. Nyan’s critiques and suggestions come just a few days after the government announced that it has commerce its COVID-19 Household Food Support Program (COHFSP) along with WFP, which is an important safety net for vulnerable people affected by COVID-19 in Liberia.
The program, according to the government and the WFP, will provide 50kg of rice, 10kg of beans, and 1 gallon of vegetable oil per household for about 2.5 million vulnerable people across Liberia.
The cost of the COHFSP program, the WFP said, is US$30 million, comprising the cost of the food basket (rice, beans, and vegetable oil) as well as costs of storing, transporting, and delivering the assistance to vulnerable households targeted through this program.
On the state of emergency, Dr. Nyan added that it is difficult to point to any substantial impact made by the state of emergency in slowing down the spread of COVID-19 in the population “As we can see the continued increase in cases at about the same rate as before and even more during the partial lockdown in Liberia.”
He also indicated that the premature opening of the country by the government without firstly addressing factors that are required to slow and “Ultimately break the chain of transmission in the communities raises lots more questions about the government’s commitment to fight this virus and keep the people safe.”
The NIH-trained infectious diseases scientist said: “I am concerned that there could be a drastic increase in person-to-person community spread of SARS-COV-2 infection mainly in Monrovia and its environs. We will also see a spike in cases from clusters of congested market places around the country.”
He said that there are shortages of testing kits and PPEs, and the government is under-testing–and there are gatherings in market places where many people are not wearing their face masks in public, and social-physical distancing is not observed.
Meanwhile, Dr. Nyan has also argued that “The lack of adequate COVID-19 pandemic awareness for the population by the government is responsible for the population violating other health preventive regulations.”
“All of this is contributing to the increase in COVID-19 cases in an already weak pandemic control process as the partial lockdown is prematurely lifted by the government.
“I believe that Liberians are largely law-abiding once given proper instructions by authorities. But in this case, the recent disregard shown towards social-physical distancing and wearing of face mask can be seen as a proportional response to the Liberian government’s improper implementation of the public health preventive regulations we proposed,” Dr. Nyan said.