Our Response to Taiwan’s Travel Alert Against Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone

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The Foreign Ministry of Taiwan over the weekend issued to its citizens a strong and alarming travel alert against its citizens visiting three West African countries—Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Ghana was singled out because it borders La Cote d’Ivoire where few weeks ago Islamic terrorists waged a vicious, unprovoked attack on a popular tourist resort, killing scores of people.

Taiwan, which is a close ally of the United States, did not mention Ghana’s close collaboration with Washington in the transfer to Accra of two Al Qaida prisoners from America’s Guantanamo Base in Cuba. Ghana’s acceptance of these prisoners was seen by many Ghanaians and others in the West African sub-region as potentially dangerous because it might cause Ghana to become an easy target of attacks from anti-America Islamic groups. But Taiwan’s announcement made no mention of that.

We have no idea why Taiwan picked on Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone in this announcement. It strangely left out Guinea, the only country among the three hardest hit by Ebola and the one that most recently experienced the resurgence of the deadly virus. Why?

Is there a special relationship between Guinea and Taiwan that caused her to ignore the fact that it was from Guinea that the virus first started, spreading quickly to Liberia and then to Sierra Leone? We need to find out why Taiwan singled out Liberia and Sierra Leone and not Guinea, too.

Even more important, however, is the need for us in Liberia to generate an effective and robust response to Taiwan’s announcement. In this process, we urge our experts in the Incident Management System (IMS), in collaboration with the Liberian Foreign Ministry, to undertake an immediate investigation into the origin, purpose and intent of the Taiwanese announcement. IMS experts should strive hard to find out what Taiwan knows, and what did the World Health Organization tell them. The IMS should also enquire of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) what it has been telling Taiwan and other nations.

We in Liberia must also be fully aware that the CDC and its partners and affiliates are in the process of completing—or have completed—the vaccines they have been developing over the past two or more years, especially against Ebola. What does this mean? It means that these Ebola vaccine manufacturers will need patients on whom to test these vaccines.

The follow-up to this question is: Who would these patients be? Would this necessitate a resurgence of the virus in Liberia and Sierra Leone, so that there would be patients on whom these vaccines can be tested?

The IMS and the Liberian government as a whole cannot take these questions lightly. In such a situation, information is critical. We cannot afford another surprise attack of this deadly virus, when we would resume scrambling for cover and for recovery. Now is the time to arm ourselves in advance with information, so that we might be able to anticipate a crisis before it occurs.

Finally, we appreciate the government’s insistence on the observing of all the Ebola preventive measures, including hand washing, temperature taking and the avoidance of handshaking. We urge all banks and other business houses, entertainment centers, homes, hotels, hospitals and clinics, government and private offices, to be equipped with Clorox-treated buckets and thermometers to be available to all who enter these premises.

It would be useful for all Liberians and foreign residents also to maintain the avoidance of handshaking, as a further preventive measure.

We further appeal to the Ministry of Justice, the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization and all GOL security agencies to ensure that all border points, air, land and sea, are equipped with anti-Ebola measures and that they be enforced upon all entering our borders.

All these measures put into place and fully and strictly adhered to by all would enhance our readiness for the sustained and victorious counterattack against this deadly enemy.

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