Liberia: Ministry of Health Ignores Its Social Distancing Measure Amid COVID-19 Vaccines Rush
Monrovia – FrontPageAfrica has observed that the Ministry of Health is not following the social distancing measure at the ongoing administration of the COVID-19 vaccines.
On Friday, Health Minister Dr. Wilhelmina Jallah, in a live radio broadcast, announced a set of revised health measures aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19. Top among these measures include a mandatory wearing of mask at all time in public places, ensuring social distancing of a minimum of three feet from each other and hand washing with soap or sanitizer.
She said: “All institutions of learning and places of worship shall remain open but shall strictly follow the health protocols listed in count two above (mandatory wearing of mask, social distancing and hand washing with soap or sanitizer).”
However, over the past days, huge number of people, both young and old have been trouping at the Ministry of Health in Congo Town to get the first shot of the vaccines. Although everyone is seen wearing a mask, the social distancing rule is being blatantly ignored. People can be seen in crammed endless queues as early as 5:pm, with some waiting for hours before getting the vaccines.
“I came here since this morning to get my vaccine, but I have been here for hours but I have not taken it. Hope by 12 O’clock, I will get it,” a lady only identified as Agatha told FrontPage.
Aaron Mason, speaking to FPA, complained that the Ministry of Health was not handling the process in line with its own health protocols it has announced.
“This is just a mockery the health officials are making out of us. You can’t see police officers line up all in the streets enforcing the health protocols, and you come right here at the Health Ministry and see it is being violated. They should be the one to set the example, but this shows they are not in charge.”
When contacted, officials at the Ministry blamed the huge crowd that have been showing up in the wake of the third wave of the virus. They told FPA that measures have been put in place to reduce the large gathering of people at the Ministry.
“Before the vaccines arrived, there were massive public awareness throughout and during the vaccination process but some people stayed away. Also the myth and misinformation made people to stay away. Now they are coming in huge numbers. That’s why the lines are long. But we are decentralizing the process. That’s why there are several queues at the Ministry,” said Felecia Gbesioh, the Director of Communications, Ministry of Health.
Also speaking, the head of immunization at the Ministry said several places including the Paynesville City Hall have been designated as vaccines centers.
“We have put in place measures to decentralize the vaccination process. As you can see here (Ministry of Health), the centers for vaccines are many. Paynesville Town Hall and other places are now available for the vaccines,” said Adolphus C. Clarke, head of Immunization.
He revealed that those who have taken the first dose of the vaccines should go back to the same venue to get the second shot.
No Vaccines Expired, No Shortage of Oxygen
Responding to rumors about the arrival of expired vaccines in Liberia, Mr. Clarke, said the information is not true, and the vaccines are safe. He said the AU vaccines that are being referenced arrived in Liberia months ago, and are being administered.
The increased in COVID-19 cases have been marred by series of rumors and misinformation, causing panic among the population. Responding to the rumor that the Star Base COVID-19 treatment unit has run out of oxygen, the Incident Management System (IMS) said the government has procured many cylinders filled with oxygen.
Excerpt of the IMS’ statement: “Contrary to news or rumors that the Star Base Treatment Unit lacks Oxygen, Cylinder and regulator, we would like to inform the public that the Government of Liberia via the IMS has procured more Oxygen, over 500 cylinders with all be filled with oxygen, 1000 Oxygen Regulator and other essentials medical supplies for speedy treatment of patients at the Star base hospital. At the same time, the IMS has procured a 350 KVA generator to serve as the third alternative source of power to boost the supply of electricity. The IMs seeks calm in the public as she is doing all she can to preserve lives. The ministry is working on distribution of these materials to counties and other private medical facilities.