U.S. Centers for Disease Control Lists Liberia as Unsafe to Travel to Due to High Covid-19 Infection Rate
MONROVIA – The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has raised Liberia’s travel alert to level 4 indicating that the country is highly unsafe for inbound travelers. The CDC has admonished U.S. citizens not to travel to Liberia and if they should, they must be vaccinated before coming.
Covid-19 Level 4 is the highest risk level as per the Centers for Disease Control’s ranking.
On its website, the CDC admonished U.S. citizens and other travelers to avoid making a trip to Liberia or get fully vaccinated before travel “because of the current situation in Liberia, even fully vaccinated travelers may be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19 variants.”
Liberia began to experience a resurgence of the coronavirus in June with an escalating number of new infections – most of which are believed to be of a new variant.
Liberia is currently recording the highest number of new infections in sub-Saharan Africa.
On June 26, the National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL) announced 101 new cases of covid-19, seven new deaths with no recoveries. The day before, 106 cases were recorded while two days earlier, 155 cases were booked.
The latest data from NPHIL as of June 26 show that there is currently 1,234 confirmed active cases of covid-19 in the country.
The third wave of the pandemic in the country came along with the Delta Variant.
Delta, formerly known as B.1.617.2, is believed to be the most transmissible variant yet, spreading more easily than both the original strain of the virus and the Alpha variant first identified in Britain. Public health officials there have said that Delta could be 50 percent more contagious than Alpha, though precise estimates of its infectiousness vary.
Other evidence suggests that the variant may be able to partially evade the antibodies made by the body after a coronavirus infection or vaccination. And the variant may also render certain monoclonal antibody treatments less effective, the C.D.C. notes.
Delta may also cause more severe illness. A recent Scottish study, for instance, found that people infected by the Delta variant were roughly twice as likely to be hospitalized than were those infected with Alpha.
Hospitals began experiencing a high inflow of patients to the extent that the nation’s biggest referral hospital, the John F. Kennedy Memorial Medical Center (JFK) admitted to the lack of beds for incoming patients.
With the rising number of new infections, prominent and ordinary citizens have taken to social media calling on the government to lockdown the country in a bid to break the transmission.
Infectious disease scientist, Dr. Dougbeh Christopher Nyan had warned of the possibility of “circulating COVID-19 variants from India coming into Liberia due to trade and movement of people between India-China and Liberia.
“The government has been too relaxed, and now needs new strategies, implementation, monitoring and enforcement of the public health regulations in Liberia for this COVID-19 pandemic to be defeated,” Dr. Nyan said during two separate interviews on Liberia Public Radio-TV and Focus on Liberia TV this week.
He emphasized that Liberia’s national pandemic response and vaccination roll-out plans be redesigned, made transparent and include professional expertise in order to mount an effect fight against COVID-19 in Liberia.
In a recent press conference, the Liberia Medical and Dental Association, (LMDA) expressed deep concern and fear over increasing number of cases in the country.
“The government should consider implementing an immediate nationwide lockdown in order to initiate massive contact tracing and arrest the rapid spread of the virus within the population as things are fast getting out of hand,” LMDA Secretary General, Dr. Moses Ziah II recommended.
According to the LMDA, the third wave of COVID-19 infections has demonstrated to be nothing like what was seen over the past 18 months since Liberia reported its first case back in March, 2020.
Speaking at a press conference held at the LMDA office in Monrovia, Dr. Ziah said the current daily number of new infections, severity of cases and death rate are alarming and unprecedented, while the need for medical and other supplies including, oxygen cylinders and deliver apparatus, medications among others, remain a huge challenge.
According to Dr. Ziah, these challenges at health facilities is hampering the ability of clinicians to provide adequate care to COVID-19 patients.
“We extend our sympathy to all those affected by this disease, and the grieving family of those who have lost their lives. At the moment, Liberia is the one of the countries reporting the highest number of new cases in the entire West Africa sub-region,” Dr. Ziah said.
The LMDA wants government, through the Ministry of Health to immediately consider opening additional isolation and treatment centers around the country to deal with the rapid increase in the number of cases.
“We also recommend the isolation of all COVID-19 cases, whether symptomatic or asymptomatic as was done during the first wave. Considering our context, taking all cases from the community will help in breaking the chain of transmission faster,” Ziah said.
At the same time, he wants government to ensure the protection of all healthcare workers by supplying all needed personal protective equipment (PPE) in all facilities at all times.
Lack of PPEs, according to the LMDA, will lead to increase infection amongst health workers which will further cause panic and demotivation to others.
Similarly, Ziah wants testing facilities to be expanded and decentralized, so as to shorten turn-around time of COVID-19 results, noting that it will help in confirming diagnosis faster and isolating positive cases immediately.
The LMDA admonished the government to partner with private institutions for the validation of results coming from the National Reference Lab.
“We as a nation cannot afford playing politics while the precious lives of our people are being lost on a daily basis. We must learn from previous experiences in order to improve the quality of our response this time around,” Ziah maintained.
“Government should consider incorporating LMDA and other professional health bodies at the core of the response since these institutions remain major stakeholders in the health sector,” he said.
The Ministry of Health through the Incident Management System has, however, urged the public to remain calm as they have not reached any decision on imposing a lockdown at this time.