Once again the nation finds itself faced with another potential threat from the deadly Coronavirus. Suggestions that the Redemption Hospital situated in the Borough of New Kru Town could play host to a quarantine center to treat patients affected with the disease has sparked concern from residents of that area given their bitter experience during the Ebola Virus crises in 2014.This newspaper recalls that during the outbreak of the Ebola Virus disease in 2014, New Kru Town and the township of West Point were quarantined.
Troops were sent in to reinforce the quarantine after rioting broke out following reports that infected patients had been transferred to West Point. During confrontation with the people security forces opened live fire which resulted in the death of little Shaki Kamara. Angry residents stormed the treatment center and looted the facility including mattresses which had been used by infected patients. Resultingly, several lives were lost due to infection acquired from the infected mattresses.
As news of the spread of the Coronavirus continues to make headlines around the world, Liberian authorities have announced that it is setting aside a little over one million US dollars to fight the Coronavirus. This includes the setting up of isolation centers where individuals infected by the disease would be quarantined to undergo treatment.
Surprisingly, the Redemption Hospital in New Kru Town, according to health authorities have named that Hospital as one of several locations selected to quarantine individuals affected by the Coronavirus. This is a health facility which has been neglected like others around the country which face a critical lack of basic medicines.
More besides, if the Redemption Hospital, plagued with the lack of resources including adequate and trained health professionals and clearly the lack of capacity, how is it going to handle cases of such magnitude? Additionally, given the experience of West Point during the Ebola crisis, the question remains, is government going to enforce the quarantine order like it did with the shooting to death of little Shaki Kamara?
This raises questions why such a densely populated area would be selected especially given the very poor state of sanitation in New Kru Town which amongst others include the lack of adequate toilet facilities and the critical lack of potable drinking water or pipe-borne water and a single hospital catering to over 75,000 residents.
Also, what about the Ebola treatment centers constructed by the Chinese government at the height of the Ebola crisis and why has the government not considered restoring them to use?
Additionally, why has this government not approached the Chinese government for assistance given that the origin of the disease is in Wuhan province China and because it has since acquired first-hand experience in the treatment of the disease. Moreover, government’s response has so far been weak and at best ineffectual. Little information has so far been made available to the public about the disease including mode of transmission and treatment protocols quite unlike during the Ebola crisis.
This government would do itself well to reconsider the decision to establish a quarantine center in New Kru Town as such, given the experience of 2014, may likely provoke riots and unrest and thus ultimately defeating the purpose of the quarantine. According to experts, the Coronavirus is a respiratory disease which can be spread through the air.
In New Kru Town as in other places around Monrovia, the delayed removal of garbage is common place. The garbage is left to rot and emits a foul smell. In many cases the garbage is set alight and it sends foul smelling smoke through the air.
Additionally, the critical lack of public toilet facilities has forced people to use the beaches to defecate. All of these factors combined make New Kru Town a less than ideal location to set up an isolation treatment center for victims of the Coronavirus.
The Ministry of Health should not be unmindful of the West Point experience, as well as those from Sierra Leone and Guinea, where Ebola treatment centers were attacked and some of their staff critically injured as a result of unrestrained public anger. National health authorities should consider well and avoid what could be a possible national misadventure.