Liberia: Pres. Weah Craves Legislature to Approve Declared State of Emergency Amid Surge in COVID-19 Cases
Capitol Hill, Monrovia – President George Weah has told members of the 54th Legislature that COVID-19 is spreading beyond the Government’s control and there was a need for swift actions to contain the mode of transmission.
President Weah made the disclosure in a communication to the House of Representatives, stating the facts and circumstances behind his decision to extend the State of Emergency by additional one month.
In a Presidential proclamation on June 22, 2020, the President declared that he took the decision in consultation with the Legislature to afford the government the opportunity to re-examine its COVID-19 response.
To make his proclamation legitimate as per the Constitution, the President is seeking the Legislature’s approval by stating the reasons behind his decision.
Article 88 of the Liberian Constitution states “The President shall, immediately upon the declaration of a state of emergency, but not later than seven days thereafter, lay before the Legislature at its regular session or at a specially convened session, the facts and circumstances leading to such declaration. The Legislature shall within seventy-two hours, by joint resolution voted by two-thirds of the membership of each house, decide whether the proclamation of a state of emergency is justified or whether the measures taken thereunder are appropriate. If the two-thirds vote is not obtained, the emergency automatically shall be revoked. Where the Legislature shall deem it necessary to revoke the state of emergency or to modify the measures taken thereunder, the President shall act accordingly and immediately carry out the decisions of the Legislature.”
In the communication, the President said the measure is intended to combat the spread of the disease that is “beyond our control.”
Excerpt of the President’s communication: “On May 10, 2020, after eight weeks of the outbreak with a strictly enforced measures including the three o’ clock curfew and very limited commercial and social activities, we had only reported approximately 100 cases of COVID 19. However, less than three weeks later, by June 1, 2020, after relaxing those restrictions, the numbers of cases had tripled from 100 to 300.
The President continued: “Unfortunately, it (COVID-19), has now begun to increase beyond our control. As of June 27, 2020, less than four weeks later, those 300 cases have more than doubled to 738 cases of citizens infected by the disease. Health authorities have warned that if this trend continues, our fragile health system will be quickly and swiftly overwhelmed.”
President Weah and the government in the early days of the outbreak took stringent measures, banning large gatherings and worships in religious places as well as mandatory hand washing and wearing of face masks, among others.
The goal of the general lockdown measures instituted in April 2020, according to the President, was to create a short term reprieve that slow the transmission of the virus, while allowing the Incident Management System (IMS) to design various strategies for the country to re-open and operate effectively.
The data, he said indicates that these measures did serve the first goal of slowing the transmission.
However, he expressed concern over the public refusal to adhere to the health protocols which have made positive impact.
“We are concerned that the general public no longer seem to comply with the health protocols which have previously helped prevent a much wider transmission of the disease in the country, most especially the wearing of face masks. This attitude cannot be allowed to continue unabated,” he warned.
Writing further, he disclosed that the government, through the IMS, seeing this as a challenge, is collaborating with the tailor unions and communities to produce about five to ten million face masks for distribution to citizens.
In addition, the President pointed out that with the extension, in the next four weeks of general lockdown measure, the IMS intends to ‘aggressively’ educate and acclimatize the Liberian population to the use of face masks, hand washing and social distancing in order to live safely and thrive in an open economy during the pandemic.
Meanwhile, the Legislature has 72 hours to either accept or reject the President’s request.