Liberia: Ministry of Health Must Stop Giving Blind Eye To The Flagrant Disregard For Health Protocols

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COVID-19 IS BECOMING THE NEW NORMAL. We all have somehow agreed that we will have to live with this virus for the next couple of years until a vaccine is discovered. However, we need to be circumspect about the devastating ramifications when the pandemic overwhelms our already fragile health system. With this in mind, we must act carefully by ensuring that public policies gear toward curbing the virus are implemented rigorously.

AS OF SATURDAY, AUGUST 8, the National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL) was reporting that the country had 1,234 confirmed cases with 441 of this number accounts for active cases. Alarmingly, there are some 1,108 people who NPHIL considers “contacts under follow up”. This means, the probability of having more confirmed cases in the coming weeks is pretty high. Liberian health experts have attributed the increased in the number of cases to the high frequency of testing that are being done in the country – an assertion we want to partially assent but with askance.

WHILE WE LAUD THE FRONTLINE health workers for their heroics, we want to frown on the policy makers for the glaring mishaps. There has been a seemingly lackadaisical approach in the enforcement of the public health regulations, which we are very cognizant is the ultimate solution to stopping the spread of COVID-19.

WE ARE ALSO AWARE that relaxing the restriction is a risky-cum-expedient move intended to salvage our already drowning economy. Small businesses are still struggling to bounce back since the end of the State of Emergency; some might never return to their pre-COVID-19 status. These are some of the by-products of a health crisis – we are no stranger to these consequences. Ebola taught us a hard lesson. We can’t squander this experience by allowing COVID-19 ravage us again.   

THEREFORE, WE ARE WARY of the mishaps that have the tenacity of further exacerbating the crisis. We think our concern comes from the glaring paradox of the Ministry of Health’s enforcement of regulations it announced since the outbreak. Many of the policy statements that have been made by Health Minister Wilhelmina Jallah to ensure adherence to the health protocol are mere lip service.

PUBLIC POLICY CARRIES a denotative meaning that underscores its vitality for the maintenance of a stable society. Social laws should be at the fulcrum of public policies. Put in context, the Ministry of Health has the authority to set the standard for the enforcement of the health regulation. The Ministry seem out of sort when dealing with this situation.

WHAT SENSE DOES it make to ban the opening of entertainment centers and night clubs but allow politicians to gather hundreds of people in total disregard of the use of face covering or mask and the social distancing measure? We think it makes absolutely no reasoning. It only increases the possibility of having more COVID-19 cases.

WE HAVE SEEN DOZENS of political rallies being held across the country with thousands of people gathering in a tight space – a conduit to spread the virus. Also, the recent funeral activities for the fallen Montserrado County Representative Munah Pelham have witnessed the gathering of thousands of partisans of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change. Most people were seen ignoring the preventive measures.

THE FLAGRANT DISREGARD FOR THE HEALTH protocol by politicians while the MOH turn a blind eye is a complete mockery to the country’s response against the pandemic. This situation can only be idiomatical described as shooting ourselves in the leg.

WE CANNOT ALLOW POLITICIANS widen the risk of COVID-19 while health authority watch and do nothing. Dr. Jallah must do the needful by working with the National Elections Commission to develop a public health protocol that will set the standard for political parties to follow. Although, there is an existing health protocol, we think a well-tailored set of rules should be develop for politicians ahead of the December 8, 2020 Special Senatorial Elections. MOH must collaborate with NEC to ensure its adherence.

THE USUAL LAISSEZ FAIRE approach is very detrimental and the lip service posture by the health authority would further complicate the situation. The rest of the world is watching the honesty of our COVID-19 response efforts. If it continues to be as paradoxical as it is unfolding, we would not be taken seriously. This may decrease our chances of reconnecting to the rest of the world.

ALREADY, WE HAVE BEEN excluded from the European Union list of countries where non-EU citizens can travel from to the region. In a June 30 press release, the EU said Algeria (which had 17,808 confirmed cases at the time), Morocco (14,771), Tunisia (1,221) and Rwanda (1,191) are the four African countries that made the list.

“THE CRITERIA TO DETERMINE the third countries for which the current travel restriction should be lifted cover in particular the epidemiological situation and containment measures, including physical distancing, as well as economic and social considerations,” the EU stated.

“THE EPIDEMIOLOGICAL SITUATION for a country to make the list, it must meet several criteria particularly,  number of new COVID-19 cases over the last 14 days and per 100, 000 inhabitants close to or below the EU average as of June 15; stable or decreasing trend of new cases over this period in comparison to the previous 14 days and an overall response to COVID-19 taking into account available information.”

MISSING OUT ON THE EU list even though Liberia, at the time, had far less number of confirmed cases than all of the African countries included on the list, presents a situation to ponder. The EU decision was clearly informed by the flaws in Liberia’s response system. And from the look at things, we do not think it has improved.

THEREFORE, WE ARE URGING the Ministry of Health to act accordingly. Enforcing the health protocols with a knee jerk approach or based on conjecture is a conduit for even grave health emergencies. With the Special Senatorial Election about roughly five months away, we cannot play a wait and see. A rigid COVID-19 protocol that will be binding on all political actors must introduce the soonest.

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