Liberia’s Health Authority, Chinese Embassy Warn against Travelling to or From China as Coronavirus Rages

The number of Coronavirus cases is now 17,000 with a mortality rate of 2%,   amounting to 250 deaths so far, prompting the World Health Organization to declare a Public Health Emergency of International Concerns

Monrovia – Liberians have been “strongly discouraged” from making travels to China for the next one month as the cases of Coronavirus increased in the world’s most populous nation.

Reading a public health advisory on Sunday in Congo Town at the headquarters of the National Public Health Institute on February 2, Health Minister Wilhelmina Jallah warned that making trips to China should be call-off until “the threat of the disease is significantly reduce around the world”.

An undisclosed number of Liberian business people travel to China often to procure and import commodities back home. This contributes immensely to the local economy.

The warning follows an earlier statement from the Chinese embassy in Monrovia also warning Chinese who have travelled to China not to return until the outbreak subsides.

The number of Coronavirus cases is now 17,000 with a mortality rate of 2%,   amounting to 250 deaths so far, prompting the World Health Organization to declare a Public Health Emergency of International Concerns (PHEIC).

The outbreak started in December 2019 from Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. There are now reported cases of active human to human transmissions of the virus in many other countries including North America, Europe and Asia.

Also, every province in China has reported a confirmed case, which means they are sites of active transmissions of the virus.

Health experts say the mode of transmission of the disease is through respiratory droplets and can be spread by healthy infected persons, which makes it very contagious.

Liberia’s health authorities say preventing trips to China would most likely limit any possible case in the country.

“This means that you increase your chances of contracting the disease and bringing to Liberia to spread it further,” the Health Minister warned.

“As a result of the above, the Ministry of Health in collaboration with the National Public Health Institute is sending this health advisory to all Liberians who want to either travel from China to Liberia or from Liberia to China that they are strongly discouraged from doing over the next one month or until at such time the threat of the disease is significantly reduced around the world.”

The advisory from the Liberian health authority comes as the Chinese Ambassador to Liberia, Fu Jijun, released a statement calling on Liberians and Chinese who have travelled back home not to return to Liberia.

“The Chinese Embassy has urged tall staff members of Chinese-funded institutions, corporate employees and overseas Chinese who have traveled to China to suspend their return to Liberia and pay attention to personal hygiene until the domestic epidemic is effectively controlled,” Ambassador Fu wrote in a statement released on Sunday.

The embassy has also urged its citizens to “follow the quarantine inspection of Liberian authorities and keep good personal hygiene habits”.

At the same time, the Embassy [has] announced that it has established a registration system for personnel coming to Liberia from China with immediate effect.

“All aid agencies, Chinese-funded enterprises and overseas Chinese are requested to report to the Embassy in a timely manner every day the situation of their personnel health,” Ambassador Fu wrote, adding that Chinese firms are expected to “do a good job” by reporting the registration of returnees “especially the personnel returning from Hubei who was on their vacation in January of this year”. He added: “They should pay close attention to the health status and do a good job of temperature monitoring (morning and evening tests), stay at home for 14 days, and avoid crowded areas, and cancel parties, group dinners and other group activities. Do not go out during the observation period, and minimize contact with others.

Health Minister Jallah reading the health advisory as Dr. Fallah [right] and Dr. Francis Ketah, Liberia’s Chief Medical officer listen

Meanwhile, NPHIL and the Ministry of Health have activated public health preparedness a rigorous plan. The plan, which includes enhanced Screening of all arrivals at the Robert International Airport (RIA), started since January 25.

Health authorities say the screening of passengers and other measures are gear toward reducing “the likelihood of an imported case” of the deadly virus into Liberia.

“As a result of our preparedness interventions, we have identified 57 Liberian students, business people and other nationals that have arrived from the areas of hot transmission. We have identified the history of travel to be through China. They filled the complete health form including their current phone numbers and home addresses,” added Dr. Mosoka Fallah, acting Director-General of NPHIL.

“However, our attempts to see them physically have not met with 100% success. While most of them answer their phone calls and allow us to see them, some of them have decided not to answer our phone calls, while others have switched off their phones.”

He added that following a recent meeting with the Ministers of Justice and Finance, it was decided that a “Precautionary Observation Center” be set up to monitor people who have recently returned from China.

The NPHIL boss stressed that these moves are “in the best interest of protecting the entire country from this deadly disease”.

“They will be kept for 14 days and monitored. All of the comfort and psychosocial support will be provided to them while they are under precautionary observation,” he said, disclosing that the screening process will begin at RIA, the collection of travel history before being transported to a “comfortable location” where they will stay for 14 days and will be check daily.

If there are such symptoms as fever, dry cough, fatigue, shortness of breath and other symptoms during the 14-day home observation period, immediately go to the medical institution for treatment and report to the Embassy. There is no confirmed or suspect case in Liberia until now.