Liberia Quietly Tackling Coronavirus; 71 Travelers from China Under Quarantined at Old UN Base
Monrovia – Health authorities and members of the Armed Forces of Liberia have reportedly been taking preemptive strikes against the Coronavirus with one senior official telling FrontPageAfrica Saturday that the effort so far has been a smashing success.
FrontPageAfrica has been informed that for the past fourteen days, authorities have been quarantining several suspected cases at the Old United Nations Peace Keeping Force Star Base Compound quarantine site. “Finds have been mobilized and Army of workers have renovated the Star Base as a quarantine site,” a source told FPA Saturday.
The death toll from a new coronavirus epidemic in China surged past 1,500 on Saturday, a day after people returning to the capital from holidays were ordered to quarantine themselves for 14 days to try to contain the virus’s spread.
Travelers from China Under Quarantine
According to a summary report of the Enhanced Preparedness report viewed by FrontPageAfrica, from January 25, 2020, to February 1, 2020, 57 persons from China were identified by the health team, documented and asked to be self-quarantined at their homes. “Due to the fact that 10 percent of them were not responding to our calls for follow up to ensure quarantine, we initiated precautionary observation(negotiated self-quarantine) for all persons returning from China as of February 2, 2020. “This was based on our experience with ending Ebola. From February 2, 2020 to date, we have a total of 71 persons in three of our Precautionary Observation Unit,” the report noted.
The report also notes that on January, 25, 2020, the Liberia Immigration Services managed to track arrivals from transmission zones and analysis viewed by FrontPageAfrica reveals that 309 Chinese arrive between December 1 and January 23, 2020. “Around the same time, 188 students and 89 business people arrive in Liberia from China. On February, 2, 2020, authorities wrote various embassies including the Chinese embassy to support preparedness. As a result, the Chinese embassy sent a team to meet with health authorities and NPHIL to jointly share data and enhance tracing of Chinese.”
The government says it has also issued a travel advisory and a letter to suspend issuance of Lassez Paiser through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to prevent people leaving China to use intermediary countries as a means to avoid the travel advisory.
Diplomatic observers are said to have been impressed at the level of proactive measures and cooperation amongst the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, the Ministry of Defense, the Liberia Electricity Corporation , the General Services Agency and the National Public Health Institute of Liberia.
Investment in the restructuring of the precautionary center and treatment center at the old UN site has been followed, officials says, by extensive collaborations currently ongoing amongst the different agencies from the Ministry of Finance, Justice and Internal Affairs as well as the Liberia National Police and the Armed Forces of Liberia.
600 Liberians in Virus-Hit Wuhan
Liberia is said to be in the driver seat amongst its Mano River neighbors in terms of tracking suspected cases and travelers and taking proactive measures to ensure that the virus is contained and kept away from the region.
Africa has strong ties to China which has become a haven for travelers looking to buy goods for selling.
According to a summary report of the Enhanced Preparedness report viewed by FrontPageAfrica, from January 25, 2020, to February 1, 2020, 57 persons from China were identified by the health team, documented and asked to be self-quarantined at their homes. “Due to the fact that 10 percent of them were not responding to our calls for follow up to ensure quarantine, we initiated precautionary observation(negotiated self-quarantine) for all persons returning from China as of February 2, 2020. “This was based on our experience with ending Ebola. From February 2, 2020 to date, we have a total of 71 persons in three of our Precautionary Observation Unit.”Excerpts from Liberia Corona Virus Preparedness Report
Additionally, there are a reported 80,000 students from the continent in China itself. At least 4,000 are thought to be in Wuhan, the city at the center of the outbreak. A 21-year-old student from Cameroon living in Jingzhou city was reported on Tuesday to be among new cases.
There are approximately 600 students from Liberia studying in Wuhan, which has been locked down for about a month now as the result of the increase in the number of new cases of the virus.
The report comes as Egypt confirmed its first case of the virus and a strong warning from the World Health Organization (WHO) which has declared the outbreak a global health emergency
Very few countries on the continent have testing facilities to test for the virus.
There are currently two laboratories in Africa in Senegal and South Africa that have the capabilities although Ghana, Madagascar, Nigeria, Liberia and Sierra Leone have announced they can also conduct tests.
The WHO recently sent out a guidance to countries on how to prepare for a possible outbreak, warning that speed was essential to ensure the “novel coronavirus does not overwhelm health systems”.
The organization has identified 13 top priority countries on the continent, including much of eastern, central and southern Africa, which either have direct links or a high volume of travel to China.
Several countries including Liberia, have been taking steps to curb the virus.
Since the virus surfaced, Liberia which has provided US$275,000 for Coronavirus has reportedly committed another US$275,000 available next week while reaching out to development partners for more support.
Inter-Agency Coordination Team Activated
Authorities have also activated the National Government Inter-Agency Coordination team under the leadership of the National Disaster Management Agency and enhance risk communication through regular releases of updates.
The case management pillar has been setup and have trained 150 doctors, nurses and ambulance drivers, hygienists and medical students to prepare for emergency response.
Tanzania has suspended or restricted flights to China, though Ethiopia’s national flag carrier, which carries almost half of all passengers, has maintained flights. In Kenya, the ministry of health has moved to reassure citizens and has dealt rapidly with reports of suspected cases, including one at a Chinese construction company in the west of the country. In Nigeria, the government has urged anybody arriving from China to “self-isolate” for at least two weeks, even if they are not ill, and in Mozambique, the government has suspended visas for Chinese citizens and forbidden its citizens from travelling there.
In South Africa, authorities have set up an emergency operations centre and were monitoring passengers at 36 entry points. The South African post office has stopped sending or receiving parcels from China. More than 40 alerts in the country have been investigated so far.
Though the vast and unstable Democratic Republic of Congo is among the most potentially vulnerable African states, officials have experience of dealing with repeated outbreaks of other infectious diseases, including Ebola.
Other countries, including Ethiopia, Kenya, Angola, Botswana and Ivory Coast, have signaled possible infections. But confirming coronavirus can take time, as health authorities lacking expertise have to send samples to just five labs across the continent. Three new labs have been opened in recent days.
Lessons from Ebola; Plea for Funding
Lessons from the 2013-2014 Ebola virus outbreak are said to have helped the continent prepare itself from the virus. The Ebola outbreak across West Africa between 2013 and 2014 was devastating taking more than 11,000 lives in three countries.
Despite the inroads in Liberia, authorities fear that in order for the level of preparedness to fully accelerate and prevent the virus or detect and contain it rapidly, it would need funding to cover cardinal areas like surveillance of all 34 hospitals to pick up case of severe acute respiratory illness or acute respiratory illnesses; surveillance of key port of entry enhanced community-event based-surveillance across the country and case management of suspected and confirmed cases.