Yesterday’s edition of the Daily Observer newspaper carried three major pieces on the deadly epidemic, Coronavirus, Covid-19.
The first was the story of the House of Representatives summoning four Ministers of the Weah administration — the Ministers of Health, Foreign Affairs, Commerce and Education — to provide an update on the country’s preparedness to combat Coronavirus, which started in China and has so far been confirmed in two African countries, Nigeria one and Senegal two cases.
These two very friendly neighbors of Liberia are the first in West Africa to be affected by this deadly virus.
At this juncture, it is important for us to cite here the dangerous assumption that has gone viral (no pun intended) on social media that black Africans or people of Negro descent are less prone to get infected by COVID-19.
Even if it were remotely possible that there may be something in the blood of black Africans that causes them to repel the disease, still THIS HAS NOT BE SCIENTIFICALLY CONFIRMED.
Whether true or not, this is no reason for us to relax. As we have said in previous editorials, we must take every precaution to fight this deadly enemy. This includes avoiding handshaking and touching others, placing buckets with chlorine, soap or other chemicals at front entrances at each home, office or other facility and making it mandatory that each employee or visitor wash hands before entering the premises.
We commend the House of Representatives for inviting four key Ministers of government—the Ministers of Health, Foreign Affairs, Commerce and Education—to provide updates on the country’s preparedness to combat Coronavirus. Besides preventive measures, the Health Minister, Dr. Wilhelmina Jallah, is expected to talk specifically on containments and diagnostic capabilities. The Minister of Commerce is expected to speak on the trade of importation; while Foreign Affairs and Education are invited to address bilateral and multilateral relationships and Liberian students on scholarships in COVID-19- affected countries. There are hundreds of Liberian students studying in China, the destination where hundreds, if not thousands of Liberian businesspeople flock on a weekly and monthly basis to shop to bring back goods for trade.
We urge the Ministry of Health and all hospitals, clinics and other medical and health facilities to be on the alert and be prepared for any related eventuality.
We understand that chlorine is a chemical that contains a powerful potential for fighting all kinds of diseases. It is, therefore, probably necessary for the government to stockpile enough quantities of chlorine to keep the nation’s hospitals and clinics supplied, just in case.
In yesterday’s Daily Observer we carried another major story on the Coronavirus, in which the distinguished Liberian scientist and medical doctor, Dr. Dougbeh Chris Nah, warned health authorities against the use of faulty Coronavirus test-kits. In a recent Skype interview, he said many laboratories in the United States have reported trouble with Coronavirus test-kits produced by the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Thankfully, the National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL) has already said that the test kits received were not given by the US CDC, as widely speculated. The test kits were given by the World Health Organization
He told reporters, “We are very concerned about the accuracy and other diagnostic characteristics of the Coronavirus COVID-19 Test-kits sent to African countries during this outbreak.
“African countries using any of these faulty testing kits from the US CDC,” he warned, “could be of very high risk of mis-detection, and therefore the possible spread of the virus in the population of positive cases of Coronavirus (COVID-19) infections are missed.”
Reports say some test kits presently being used in Liberia were supplied from the US CDC to aid in monitoring the Coronavirus transmission, which has so far totaled over 80,000 cases worldwide and killed more than 2,500 people. South Korea, Japan, Italy and Iran have reported the highest number of COVID-19 cases outside China, where the outbreak began in November 2019.
We urge the Liberian government, particularly the Ministry of Health and the NPHIL to be very careful in their use of these faulty test kits and anything else they receive from the outside world relating to this epidemic, which the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned is fast approaching “pandemic” proportions.
We cannot afford to be the victim of other people’s mistakes.