Liberia: Liberia Has a COVID-19 Primary Source Dilemma After Traveler from Italy Tests Negative

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FrontPageAfrica was informed that the Liberia office of the Millennium Challenge Corporation where Russ is employed has been closed as a precaution for two weeks.

Monrovia – Who infected Lenda Russ with the COVID-19 deadly Coronavirus? That’s the question health authorities are struggling to answer after a primary source, a traveler from Italy tested negative for the virus at the weekend.

Ms. Lorraine Mason, who returned from Italy on February 28, 2020 was briefly quarantined at the Kailondo Hotel on the Old Road and sent home to complete her quarantine after she complained of the poor condition of the facility.

She was released out of the quarantine on March 7, 2020 and attended a beach party where Ms. Lenda Russ, 63, Director of Finance and Administration at the Millennium Challenge Corporation, is believed to have been infected with the virus.

Information Minister Lenn Eugene Nagbe, responding to a FrontPageAfrica inquiry Sunday, confirmed that Mason’s test came back negative.

Russ’s son, according to medical notes viewed by FrontPageAfrica told doctors after she was confirmed positive, that his mom had attended a reunion beach party with old classmates on Sunday, March 8, 2020.

Russ has not traveled to Italy – and has not been in close contact with Nathaniel Blama, the first case of Coronavirus in Liberia, raising more questions as to how Ms. Russ may have been infected.

Russ is currently at the 14 Military Hospital off the Robertsfield Highway being treated.

MCC Office Closed as Precaution

“This presents a challenge to say the least; because we now have to find the primary source. Moreover, we may have been mistracing a misdirected.”

– A Senior Health Official Speaking on the Basis of Anonymity

As this story went to press, FrontPageAfrica was informed that the Liberia office of the Millennium Challenge Corporation where Russ is employed has been closed as a precaution for two weeks. The decision reportedly came after MCC hierarchy met with a team from NPHIL and provided names of all employees, contact details.

The private beach party, FPA has learned took place in the Marshall area. FrontPageAfrica has learned that some 71 persons from that party have already been traced and are being monitored.

Russ’s son reportedly told doctors that one of his mother’s former classmate, Mason, who had recently returned from Italy, was also in attendance and interacted with his mom.

The son, according to the medical notes, explained that his mother got ill about three days ago with fever, cough, and malaise and decided to come for testing. “The patient does not know if the returnee from Italy is ill with symptoms now. She does not know if other people who attended the party is ill,” a hospital employee with knowledge of the situation, speaking on condition of anonymity said Saturday.

The revelation prompted authorities to test Mason as the primary source. But the negative results now poses a grave dilemma for authorities still scrambling for answers as to how Russ became infected with the virus.

“This presents a challenge to say the least; because we now have to find the primary source. Moreover, we may have been mistracing a misdirected,” a senior health official, speaking on condition of anonymity Sunday.

Complicating matters, authorities say the lack of sufficient test kits to test at random is also posing problems. We are testing only those who emit symptoms. But by then, it is late,” the official said.

The declaration of a third case of the virus last Friday prompted authorities at the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare to declared a national health emergency in Liberia, declaring both Montserrado County and Margibi counties “infected zones”.

State of Health Emergency

Health Minister Wilhemina Jallah said: “I’ve noticed business as usual. There were many people gathered at wells, people holding hands, hugging, people are crowded in the market. Based on the result of the third case, and the amount of contact, we have no choice, the Liberian government and the President of Liberia, together, after our meeting, we have no choice but to come out with the following directive. In the wake of the Coronavirus epidemic and in an effort to keep our nation safe, the Minister of Health has declared a National Health Emergency in keeping with Title 33, Chapter 14 of the Liberian Code of Law, revised, known as the public health law. I, as Minister of Health have designated Montserrado County and Margibi County as infected areas which will remain in effect for the next 21 days.”

The minister said all schools, public and private, universities, computer schools and any other learning institution, are hereby ordered closed. “All bars, nightclubs, casinos, betting centers, cinemas, video clubs, entertainment centers, are hereby ordered closed. All beaches, both private and public are hereby ordered closed. Churches, mosques, religious centers and other places of worship are hereby ordered closed.”

Additionally, large gatherings, including sporting activities, parties of more than ten people are hereby ordered banned. Weddings, funerals will be allowed with no more than ten people in attendance, and they should keep a distance of six feet apart from each other at all times. Restaurants should only allow five customers at a time. With all customers keeping a distance of six feet apart of each other at all times.

Takeaway is encouraged, cookshops shall only allow five customers at a time. With all customers keeping a distance at all time.”

The order Sunday endured its first hiccup Sunday when Senator Prince Y. Johnson(Nimba) resisted an order from police inspector general Patrick Sudue to close his church Sunday. “The President of Liberia did not give such order and so if you come to the church, the Disciples of Church, come sit down and listen to the word of God. Mr. Director, do not disturb my church,” the Senator told the IG.

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