When news of the COVID-19 pandemic first came to public attention, Liberians reacted with panic and alarm, recalling their experience with the killer Ebola Virus Disease that took away so many lives before it was finally brought under control.
This newspaper recalls the situation faced by Ms. Linda Russ who, according to reports, has attended a social function where she may have become exposed to the virus.
News accounts of hospital staff fleeing from Ms Russ for fear of being contaminated by the virus were no exaggerations as the Liberian people, it appeared, were actually gripped with fear.
Before long, the Ministry of Health had promulgated a series of health measures to which compliance was expected of everyone.
Such regulations amongst others, included social distancing and the wearing of masks covering the nostrils and mouth.
This was done in order to mitigate the possible spread of the virus. And then the statistics began to pile up with figures showing an alarming upward trend.
As it turned out, however, health authorities were including non-COVID-19 related deaths in their official COVID-19 death toll statistics.
And the almost immediate public outcry against such report that followed suggested that most Liberians did not believe in what health authorities were telling them.
And as if to make matters worse, the only infectious disease unit (IDU) available near Monrovia, located at the Redemption Hospital, located in the densely populated borough of New Kru Town, quickly became a non-starter when the lawmaker for that district, Representative Dixon Seboe, sharply rejected any prospect of using the facility to host or treat Coronavirus patients.
The newly constructed 14 Military Hospital, isolated on the Robertsfield highway, became the only option, though it was hardly furnished or equipped, even to handle the most common illnesses.
Even then, reports from that facility suggested that there hardly any drugs available to treat COVID-19 patients.
And as soon as patients realized that COVID-19 symptoms were similar to that of the common flu, they resorted to treating themselves with locally available herbs, even while still interned at the 14 Military Hospital.
Meanwhile the Government of Liberia had ordered the imposition of curfew regulations and lockdown measures in what it said was an attempt to control the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
But from all appearances, those recommended measures seemed not to be working. In overcrowded slum areas such as West Point, Soniwehn, New Kru Town etc, social distancing seemed to be more of the exception than the rule.
In crowded market places like Waterside, Red-Light and Dorleh-La markets there was nothing like social distancing, especially in the Red-Light market where marketeers were carrying on their business in the heat and smoke from burning garbage.
Miraculously, there was no massive outbreak of the COVID-19 as would have been expected, or as was the case in other countries with high COVID-19 fatality rates.
Only recently, the National Sports and County Meet finals were held here in Monrovia at the Samuel K. Doe Sports Complex. Over a period of several days, thousands of people trooped daily to that facility to watch the football games.
Unlike Europe, America and other places where footballers are playing in stadiums without or limited spectators, there was nothing as such during the County Meet Finals.
Even President George Weah and his corps of officials were in attendance at an event in which COVID-19 concerns were virtually thrown to the wind.
Since then, there has been no reported massive outbreak of COVID-19 as would have been expected.
Thus, questions are being asked just why COVID-19 has not struck Liberia with the kind of devastating effects observed in other countries.
As most of the world remains locked in, Liberians are going about their businesses apparently least concerned about COVID-19, save the economic effects which are having the hardest pinch on country’s poor.
Thus, questions are being asked — and rightly so — why has this poor country of Liberia been given a package of 97,000 doses of anti-COVID-19 vaccines when COVID-19 is not a major health concern of the Liberian people at this time.
These concerns are genuine, especially in view of the fact that the vaccines have not been subjected to extensive field tests to ensure their safety and efficacy.
This has given rise to speculations that Liberians will be used as Guinea pigs, just as done during the Ebola when the experimental drug Z-MAPP was being touted as the panacea to Ebola.
Additionally, a scaled-up public information dissemination program was rolled out, intended to convince Liberians to accept to take the experimental drug.
But Liberians generally resisted and, to date, there appears to be very little indication that Liberians are massively participating in the scheme with the acronym PREVAIL.
It is also believed that most Liberians are going to respond in similar fashion to the experimental Astra-Zeneca vaccine developed by a British-Swedish drug manufacturer and produced in India under license.
What Liberians need to understand is that this is an experimental drug that still has not been subjected to extensive field tests, although its manufacturers say, unlike other competitors whose products have to be kept in ultra-cold storage conditions, its Astra-Zeneca drug can be stored in conventional fridges.
Additionally, they say the drug will be available in perpetuity to developing countries around the world at US$3.00 per dose
Whatever the case, the Liberian government should be careful in accepting such a gift which, in reality, locks the nation into Astra-Zeneca’s global supply chains.
In view of this, many Liberians spoken to have expressed the view that the experimental drug should be field-tested in Europe and America especially, where the COVID-19 has taken a devastating toll in human lives. It is there where the trials are needed most.
The lessons of the Charlesville-based Liberia Bio-Medical Research Institute, where the Typhoid virus was introduced into Chimpanzee populations as well as local populations, in an attempt to develop a vaccine against Typhoid, are applicable here.
Prior to the establishment of the research lab facility, prevalence levels of Typhoid in the local population was very low but has now since seen a dramatic rise in Typhoid prevalence according to a Liberian medical researcher (name withheld).
In the Book of Matthew 7:5, it says, “Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye and then thou shall see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.
Beware of hypocrites, Liberians!