Liberia: Relaxing Public Health Measures Must Be Done With Extreme Caution

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THE NOVEL CORONAVIRUS has disrupted everything and now makes any move to go back to normalcy while the threat of the virus still hovers must be done meticulously. There is no definite cure or vaccine for the virus — an already complicated situation worsened by the socioeconomic fallout – and for country like ours we must have to do everything very carefully.

RELAXING REGULATIONS is a daring venture every government is endeavoring but concerns about increasing the infection rate is still intrinsic. The poor state of our health sector remains a longstanding problem that risk being derailed if we have more cases of COVID-19.

AS OF SUNDAY, June 14, Liberia had recorded 446 confirmed cases, 200 of this number are active cases. In fact, the number of confirmed cases has been growing since the government began relaxing restrictions. Public heath experts reckon that the case is increasing because more tests are being done. Scientists have suggested that the more tests, the better are the chances of flattening the curve.

HOWEVER, the government must listen to the experts when taking decisions. Being impulsive and knee-jerk would be disastrous. The level of threat COVID-19 poses to the entire world is unprecedented; and so, weak health systems like ours have no capacity to respond effectively. This is obviously the reason why the government must consider its decision with the utmost care.

RESTRICTIONS HAVE already been lifted on many commercial activities. The airport will be reopening soon, school are expected to restart in the next couple of weeks. All these decisions are welcoming albeit very chancy.

WHAT WE WANT to stress is the importance of promoting and enforcing all the health regulations amid the relaxation of the restrictions. Schools and other institution must be made to follow all the health protocols. In addition, massive awareness targeting students should become the priority of the ministries of education and health and other relevant government agencies.  

IT IS NO SECRET that the basic preventive measures are being ignored by many people in the country. For example, wearing mask in public places is obviously not being adhered to as expected. Law enforcement officers, who should ensure the regulation is followed, are also caught violating. This suggests that we are faraway from defeating the virus and like many have touted, we will have to live with this virus for a very long time. However, we cannot afford to be ravaged by the threat it poses. We have seen how this pandemic has brought the entire world to its knees. Richer and more prepared nations are struggling to deal with the crises.

THE MINISTRY OF HEALTH must work with every school to ensure health protocols are understood and followed to the fullest. We cannot afford any lackadaisical attitude. People must be made to do their job. The onus is upon the Ministry of Education to institute a protocol for all schools across the country and that students are taught the basic preventive measure against COVID-19.

SEVERAL COUNTRIES across the world have resumed schools amid the pandemic but these countries have ensured measures are effective. MOE must spare us the usual lip service and emulate the approaches of some of these countries. The sociocultural realities of these countries are not akin with ours but there is always a thing or two we would learn from others.

WITH SCHOOLS expected to reopen on June 21, we are yet to see or hear about the measures. We do not want to presume there is none; however, we expect massive awareness ahead of the reopening of schools so that students can be better prepared. This is because social behavioral change can never be achieved instantaneously. For students to learn to follow COVID-19 preventive measures, they must understand the importance of the measures. Students can be stubborn and indiscipline, so the task pf teaching them new way of life comes with a challenge.

WE WOULD ALSO want to forewarn authorities at the MOE about accessing the risks of reopening schools. If proper sensitization about the virus and its preventive measures are not understood by students, the government must delay the resumption of school. We think the opening of schools should be a decision only advised by Science – medical or sociological. It is a realistic move but MUST be done with the utmost care.

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