Liberia: Citizens in Lofa County Express Fear over Ebola Resurgence in Guinea; Call on Government to Swiftly Close the Borders
VOINJAMA, Lofa County – The Minister of Health, Dr. Wilhemina Jallah, is confident that there is no need to shut Liberia’s borders amid resurgence in neighboring Guinea, but citizens in Lofa County believe it is risky to have the borders open amid the new epidemic of the killer virus in the region.
The Health Minister in a press briefing on Wednesday said Liberia already has a structure in place based on the 2014-2016 Ebola experience, therefore, there is no need to close the borders as there will be rigorous screening at the various points of entry.
Appearing before the Senate on Thursday, Dr. Jallah and the Director General of the National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL), Ms. Jane Macauley, informed the Senate that they as health authorities are on a high alert to avert the entry of Ebola in Liberia.
Ms. Jane Macauley told Senators that, “We are ensuring that there is adequate screening in and out of our border points by taking temperature and washing hands. We have five counties on alert which include Lofa, Nimba, Grand Cape Mount, Bong Montserrado meaning they are in active preparedness.
But the people of Lofa County have expressed fear that if stringent measures are not taken immediately, they will be a spillover of the virus in Liberia. For most residents of Voinjama City, closing the border now is one of the surest ways of curbing the spread of Ebola from Guinea to Liberia.
Ebola first entered Liberia through Lofa County from Guinea. The Liberian government denied early report of the suspected cases in Lofa at the time but confirmed the presence of the deadly virus a few days later.
Prince Mulbah, a motorcyclist, remembered vividly how terrible the epidemic was back in 2014. He told FrontPageAfrica, “We know what Ebola did to us. We cannot go through it again”.
He added, “Mainly we need the government’s intervention, let the border be closed. Most of our friends, the cyclists, soon in the morning they go to the border to transport people from Guinea into Lofa and we don’t know who’s coming in or what they’re bringing. We’re very worried and we want to border to close immediately.”
He said since the pronouncement of the discovery of Ebola in Guinea, he ceased to carry two passengers on his motorcycle – limiting his passengers to one.
“We’re cyclists and we interact with many people so it’s not really safe for us and for me, safety comes first,” he added.
Nancy Kollie believed to be in her mid 60s said she was gripped by fear when she heard that Ebola had resurfaced in Guinea and called for a swift government intervention. “Guinea is right here, people coming and going every day; all I want is for the government to close the border now,” she said. She also called on the government to begin awareness in the county.
Rebecca Mulbah, a farmer in Voinjama said she has heard about Ebola in Guinea but does not know how true it is. She added that it was the same lack of clarity on the killer virus in 2014 that led to entry in the country and the wide spread.
“Some people will say they haven’t seen it so they’ll not believe it; for me, I have not seen it but I believe it. I want the government to bring the first precaution methods back because it helped us. We’re in corona and now we’re hearing about Ebola so we don’t which situation we find ourselves in – the government needs to help,” she said.
She added, “They have to close the borders to protect us. People are traveling up and down and you don’t know who is who. When you’re interacting with somebody you don’t know whether they’re affected or not.”
For Veronica Meyango, she’s afraid the cross-border trade between the two countries, especially in Lofa, creates the way for easy entry of the killer virus disease.
“If Ebola is in Guinea then we’re almost into it because almost everyday people crossing to come and buy their market. First Ebola came and just damaged people so if we’re hearing the news now, it’s better we take the preventive method. The borders should be closed until we can see what the government can do about this Ebola,” she said.
Junisa Kabba a local business man said the mention of Ebla brings so much freight to him. “We saw what Ebola did to us. It’s more than coronavirus. And for me, because of my business, I interact with so many people. Since they talked about Ebola being in Guinea, when I see certain people and I’m not satisfied, I don’t allow them come close to me and I don’t shake their hands.”
Kabba also believes that shutting the borders at this early stage would save the country from future devastation.
Health authorities in Liberia on Thursday urged calm amid reports of a suspected case of the deadly Ebola Virus deriving from Guinea.
Health Minister Dr. Jallah told the BBC that specimens had been collected from the woman who is currently in the isolation unit of a leading hospital in the capital, Monrovia.
She said the woman had gone to a local clinic showing malaria-related symptoms before she was transferred to the hospital for further examinations.
Dr Jallah said that in view of the symptoms she had shown, the woman was considered a suspected case, but her actual status would only become known after the result of tests.
She had come from Nzérékoré in Guinea which is close to the border with Liberia and before the outbreak of Covid-19, trade boomed between people in the town and those from Liberia.
As of February 15, Guinea has identified one hundred and ninety-two (192) contacts, including 164 contacts in N’Zérékoré Health District and 28 in Ratoma Health District, Conakry. To date, no contacts have been reported to have travelled in neighboring countries. However, Nzérékoré is the second-largest city in Guinea and lies at the intersection of roads from Ganta (in Liberia), Danané (Côte d’Ivoire), and roads to other major hubs in Guinea like Kankan and Macenta in (Guinea). Therefore, there is concern about the exportation of EVD cases into the neighboring countries.