Liberia’s Coronavirus Cases Nearing One Thousand As the Country Experiences Surge in New Infections
MONROVIA – Liberia is short of two cases to hit 1,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and the country continues to experience a rapid increase in the number of new infections.
Report by Lennart Dodoo, [email protected]
On Friday, July 10, the National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL) reported a total of 998 confirmed cases. Thirty-five of that number were new cases. The day before, there were 963 cases and just were new infections. And on July 8, the cases were 957.
Liberia continued to experience a surge in the number of infections upon the gradual relaxation of restrictions.
The government has not been able to get a second approved state of emergency from the Legislature since declared by President George Weah over a fortnight ago.
The proclamation for the extension of the state of emergency states: “WHEREAS, clearly, notwithstanding all the efforts of the Government to control the effect of Covid-19 pandemic on our people, especially the SOE declaration and its associated protocols to include restrictions on movement of people, social distancing and wearing of masks, the number of people infected by Covid-19 pandemic has exponentially increased since the SOE Declaration. This obviously necessitates the extension of the SOE for another period of thirty (30) days, during which the Government will re-examine its response strategy to Covid-19 pandemic and introduce a program of action to better secure and protect the Liberian people against this dreadful scourge; and,…”
State of Emergency Dilemma
On Tuesday, June 7, the House of Representatives failed to attain a quorum to deliberate the President’s request for the extension of the state of emergency which in the President’s wisdom would afford him the powers to further restrict some rights in order to control the spread of new infections.
Although it has not been established whether the members deliberately refused to attend session, several lawmakers including members of the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) Legislative Caucus earlier called for the revocation of the State of Emergency because it has passed the constitutional deadline for legislative approval.
The CPP, in the a press conference recently said: “We, as members of the CPP Legislative Caucus wish to bring to the attention of the Liberian people that the State of Emergency as announced by the President of the Republic of Liberia on June 22, 2020 for a 30-day extension has not yet been passed by the National Legislature, as such, it has passed the maximum constitutional time frame to be enforced as provided for in Article 88.”
According to the lawmakers, the 72-hour deadline has passed and the Legislature, comprising both Houses of Representatives and Senate has not acted on the President’s proclamation, and as such, they would institute measures to ensure the revocation of the state of emergency.
Some had earlier threatened to boycott session in protest of the President’s ‘flagrant’ violation of the Constitution.
But the Minster of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism Lenn Eugene Nagbe, challenged members of the CPP Legislative Caucus to institute legal action against the second state of emergency declared by President Weah to curb the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic in the country, if they are dissatisfied.
Minister Nagbe, appearing as guest on the OK Morning Rush Show on OK FM 99.5 in Monrovia on Monday, July 6, challenged the opposition lawmakers to use the court instead of planning to stage a protest or walk out action against the move made by the Liberian Chief Executive to declare a state of emergency for additional 30 days.
“If any member, whether from the CPP or any Liberian believes that there is a violation of the constitution by the President submitting the SOE request to the Legislature, there is an avenue under our constitution and democratic dispensation for you to ask the Supreme Court to interpret because it is a matter of understanding and comprehending what the constitution says”.
Pushing for Voluntary Testing
Liberia’s health minister, Dr. Wilhemina Jallah has been calling on citizens to avail themselves for testing, noting that such would help citizens get early medical attention and stop the spread of new infections.
She also urged Liberians not to take for granted the health protocols instituted by the Ministry of Health and NPHIL.
“With the wearing of masks, including the regular washing of hands, social distancing and go home early, the country can make a big difference in curbing the spread of the disease,” Minister Jallah emphasized, adding that Liberia will only defeat COVID-19 through the involvement of everyone.
This, according to her, must include community leaders and residents themselves as well as various stakeholders, adding that it would be unhealthy for a single Liberian to risk his or her life by disobeying the preventive measures.
“The virus is here, so we must all work as a people in unity to defeat this virus,” the Health Minister said.
“With the wearing of masks, including the regular washing of hands, social distancing and go home early, the country can make a big difference in curbing the spread of the disease”– Dr. Wilhemina Jallah, Minister of Health
Nurses ‘Playing Careless’
Dr. Jallah further disclosed that the infection rate of COVID-19 among nurses will continue to increase unless nurses themselves start to believe that the virus is real and it exists in Liberia. She warned health workers to abide by health protocols.
During a Senate appearance on Wednesday, she informed Senators that some health workers are still in doubt and denial about the existence of the coronavirus and are being “careless” in how they handle their patents at various health centers.
Minister Jallah: “Some of them don’t believe that COVID-19 exists in the country, some are not practicing all of the hand hygiene, and health measures, some are taking care of patients at home in small clinics. Some of them are being infected from their own private institutions but we have been working with healthcare workers to ensure that we review what they already know in terms of hygiene and precautionary measures.
“We have gotten together some algorithm (procedure) that they can use on any patient that comes in to be able to have a check list where they can determine the symptoms of COVID-19. We are constantly working with health care working along with our partners. We are constantly sending materials to the counties to ensure that the infection rate. We are constantly on zoom calls.”
Responding to question about what kind of treatment is being given to people infected with COVID-19 and taken to the 14 Military Hospital and other health centers in Liberia she said, “One of the reasons we move people from their homes to the treatment unit is to isolate them. In the Military Hospital, we have an ICU and also in the UNION hospital. If people were honest enough to stay in their homes we will allow them to stay in their homes.”
She also told lawmakers the imposition of the first state of emergency saw a sharp decline in the cases of COVID-19. “After the first phase of the state of emergency we noticed a sharp declined, because people were abiding by the protocol, there were limited movement, people staying off the streets after 3:00. But when the second phase of the state of emergency was announced and curfew extended to 6;00 pm people thought they were okay so they stop wearing masks.”