Liberia: Calling the Names of Those Coming Down with COVID-19 Is Wrong; Stop the Stigma, Mr. President, Min. Nagbe & NPHIL

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IN ITS FIGHT against the 2019 novel Coronavirus outbreak in Liberia, the government has begun this campaign unprecedentedly by calling the names of the victims or those coming down with the virus.

THIS IS UNPRECEDENTED because no healthcare delivery institution or person does what our President, Mr. George Manneh Weah, Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism Minister Lenn Eugene Nagbe and the National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL) began doing to those who have been confirmed with COVID_19. COVID_19 is the disease associated with this new 2019 Coronavirus outbreak, which began in December 2019 in Wuhan, China.

IN HIS EFFORT to inform the nation about the rumors that had already begun to spread concerning the outbreak, President Weah tried to assured Liberians that his administration is in control. He, however, made what we think is a fatal mistake by directly identifying the person who had come down with the virus.

“THE INFECTED person is Mr. Nathaniel Blama, Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Agency, who arrived in Liberia on Brussels Airlines on Friday night, the 13th of March.” 

THE PRESIDENT went on further to say that Mr. Blama, who is now the index case, refused to be quarantined in keeping with the health protocols that were in place at the airport.

BY THIS STATEMENT from the President that the index case deliberately chose not to be quarantined has left not only Mr. Blama being stigmatized but his life and that of his families’ have been put at risk.

MR. BLAMA REFUTED the allegations that were passed onto the President. When he tried to offer clarification, he fell in more trouble with the President.  

IN AN AUDIO RECORDING obtained by FrontPageAfrica, Mr. Blama said, “I want to urge you guys to stay calm; I’m not doing anything out of protocol. I talked to the doctor and the doctor advised that since I’m okay, to not create panic, I should drive myself to the hospital and the ambulance was going to drive behind me and we did just that.

WHY ARE YOU guys panicking, talk to Dr. Kateh, talk to Dr. Fallah, that’s what we agreed. And when they brought the ambulance in the community, the community members got concerned and started running behind it after even the health workers escorted me and I got in it.

THEN YOU GUYS have done enough damage by misinforming the public that I refused quarantine. That’s not true and that’s not fair.

AGAIN, WE THINK the President’s move to indefinitely suspend Mr. Blama is not worth the salt. The man is already traumatized; he and his family are now being stigmatized, why did you add more injury to him, Mr. President? We don’t intend to question to your Presidential prerogative, what we are looking at is the timing of the decision. This could have a fatal end for him. The man is presently being isolated and quarantine. We all know what this does to one’s psyche. He doesn’t need to hear any further bad news to his personal wellbeing.

MR. BLAMA AND THE SECOND CASE, Johnny Phillips, who is a domestic worker at his home, have both tested positive for the disease. Though he returned during the evening hours of Friday, March 13, from Switzerland, his case was not reported until Monday, March 16.

HEALTH WORKERS have determined that Phillips was the primary contact of Mr. Blama when he returned from Europe, to his residence. The health authorities have assured that they are continuing to trace and test several primary and secondary persons who the index case might have come in contact with.

THIS IS WORTH commending. But we think that after they had blundered by calling the name of Mr. Blama on Monday, they would have kept the name of the second person private.

WE LIVE AS a close-knit family in Liberia. This is a place where everybody knows everybody. By fully identifying these two men publically, you have willfully stigmatize them and their immediate families.

NOTICED MONDAY and Tuesday what happen when you named those individuals? Social media became flooded with insults and condemnation toward, especially towards Mr. Blama. Callers on various radio talk-shows began bashing Mr. Blama as if he purposely went to Europe to get infected with Covid_19 just to bring it back to Liberia so that other Liberians can contract the disease, too. We don’t think that was the case.      

NOW, HE AND PHILLIPS are being stigmatized because of the unprofessional handling of their identities.

ALL THE NATIONS that are battling the virus didn’t publically name their index cases. For example when Nigeria announced its outbreak, back in February, they only said “an Italian,” who arrived in that country on February 24 from Milan, Italy. Of course, they know the Italian man’s name.

NPHIL KNOWS too well that stigma is a mark of shame, disgrace or disapproval which results in an individual being rejected and discriminated against, and it tragically deprives people of their dignity and interferes with their full participation in society.

SO, MR. PRESIDENT, Min. Nagbe and NPHIL stop initiating the stigmatization of Liberians or others who might test positive with COVID­-19.

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