Liberia’s Coronavirus Fight: Quarantined People—Including Two Journalists— Lament
When returning from Canada to Liberia, through Brussels Airway, on March 16, 2020, Madam Worjolo didn’t imagine the kind of welcome-back-home reception her native Country’s Government accorded her at Liberia’s International Airport on March 17. She had spent 13 consecutive years in Canada.
“After submitting my passport to the Airport’s authority, a team of Immigration and health officers swarmed around me and other passengers, saying we should go through a fourteen-day quarantine for Coronavirus,” Madam said to this writer in an exclusive interview on Coronavirus-related confinements experienced by Liberians. “I was kept in quarantine, for fifteen days, at the John Gbessay Resort.”
The interview with Madam Worjolo, who refused to disclose her maiden name, just to protect her job in Canada, was held on Saturday, April 18 at her family’s home in Matadi, Sinkor, Monrovia.
The returnee said while the Dutch Plane was in Canada and Sierra Leone, where the Plane made a brief stop, passengers bound for Liberia had monitored health-related news, but none of the passengers saw any reportage on “confirmed Coronavirus case,” she claimed during the interview.
“That’s why I was shocked and saddened by those people’s comments of my going into 14-day quarantine,” she continued.
Madam Worjolo was quarantined with 27, including two children, were quarantined.
On her experience in quarantine, Madam Worjolo spoke on three things.
“The first thing was the rooms assigned to us. Mine and the others were dusty, as if nobody had slept in any in a long time before we arrived there,” she began the narration of her quarantine life. “My friend experienced asthma attack, from the dust, in the room given to her. The second thing was the electric current in the place. Whoever was the owner or caretaker of the Hotel and Resort only switched on power, to power the fans or air-condition, at seven o’clock in the evening, and switched off at six o’clock. The third thing was the food provided by those who held us in such confinement. The first food, supper, was rice with running palm butter—plenty water in the palm soup, instead of a thick soup. The breakfast and lunch, in subsequent days, arrived late—at least thirty minutes beyond the time our hosts had assured us. Most of the time the breakfast was only bread and tea; the lunch was doughnut with water or juice. Once we protested on the late arrival of the food caused. Imagine persons used to eating on time and eating better foods in Canada and other Countries being kept hungry in a long time. Our protest was, we should be fed by our relatives in Liberia. But they refused. ”
The third thing was a personal experience.
“Few days to expiration of my quarantine period, I came out of my room in the early hour of the day, due to severe hunger, to ask the Hotel Security about how I could get cooked food,” Madam Worjolo began the narration of the third experience. “A light complexion, short man in Liberia’s national Police uniform saw me standing at the Hotel’s entrance and shouted at me, ‘hey woman, it’s coronvirus time, go back into your room’. I replied that he should talk to me with respect. He replied, ‘if I were in the fence here, I would have whipped your butt (buttocks)”
Madam Worjolo’s response to the police officer’s response was sarcastic, she confessed during the interview.
“I replied, go and whip your mother’s buttocks,” she said during the interview. “Minutes later, some workers in the Hotel gave his name and position to me: Godfrey Kollie, ‘105’—his code ID in the Police Force,” she added.
On question about general Coronavirus-related confinement, Madam Worjolo said she wasn’t extremely psychologically destabilized throughout 15-day of quarantine.
“I’m used to staying in-door in a long time, especially during an outbreak of an infectious disease like the Coronavirus. During such period, in Canada, where I lived for thirteen years, the Central Government or Municipal Authority warns members of the public to remain in their neighborhoods, or keep a wide distance from other people in a public area,” she admitted.
Through Ms. Hawa Kaipa, I had an opportunity of speaking with another quarantined person, Mrs. Priscilia Barclay, with her daughter and grand-daughter, on Saturday, April 18, at the Palm Spring Hotel & Resort in Congotown, outside of Monrovia. They were being held up in Room #211 on the second floor. Ms. Hawa Kaipa had brought cooked food for Mrs. Barclay, her Christian sister of the same Church.
“My Christian sister, Hawa Kaipa, God will abundantly bless you for this food you’ve brought for us—me, my daughter and my grand-daughter,” Mrs. Barclay said from her quarantine space down to the Ms. Hawa Kaipa about six seconds after Ms. Kaipa had notified her, via phone call, about her presence and the delivered food.
A male security officer, from private security firm, PILOT, had prevented Ms. Kaipa from going beyond the main entrance to personally present the food to her friend. The food was in concealed in a white Supermarket polythene bag.
“Amen, sister Priscilia!” Ms. Kaipa responded from down in the Hotel’s yard. “My sister, our God is about to deliver you from this quarantine. He can do it today, or in a week from today.”
“Amen!” Mr. responded in a plaintive tone from up, and wiped her face with the back of her right palm.
“The Hotel’s security prevented my personally delivering the food to you, so I left it with the Hotel’s management to present it to you.”
“The food will reach me. Thank you for your kindness, my sister!” Mrs. Barclay hoped.
Minutes later, Mrs. Barclay appealed for drinking water from her friend.
“I will help with that,” this writer, with Ms. Hawa Kaipa in the Hotel’s yard, volunteered.
“God bless you for your kindness, my brother,” Ms. Kaipa said to the male ‘stranger’ on an undisclosed mission in the Hotel’s yard. “My name is Hawa Kaipa,” she responded to the stranger’s first question.
The water arrived four minutes later. It was contained in twelve sachets of 500-mili-liter per sachet.
“How long have you spent in this building now?” I threw a question Mrs. Barclay up, using my relative familiarity based on the humanitarian gesture with the drinking water.
“Today is my fifteenth day in quarantine,” she replied.
Later, when Ms. Kaipa and I were out of the Hotel’s yard, I asked her on her relationship with Mrs. Barclay and factors surrounding her quarantine at the Palm Spring Hotel & Resort.
“We are members of the same Church—City of Life Church—in Barnersville. She’s the President of the Usher department of our Church—City of Life,” Ms. Hawa Kaipa began. “But we live at different places. She lives in Barnersville. I’m living in Virginia.”
And she narrated events that resulted to confinement of her Christian sister at the Palm Spring Hotel & Resort.
“In early March, my her daughter, nick-named Love, left with her daughter, named Rhema, from their house in Matadi Estate to visit her mother in Barnersville to tell her about a rise in sugar level in her body,” Ms. Hawa Kaipa began. “But Love decided to spend extra days with her mother. When Love was with her mother, Love’s husband, an official of the Ministry of Public Works, was tested positive of the Coronavirus in the week following his return from Sweden.”
Narrating further, Ms. Kaipa said the Government’s Anti-Coronavirus Task Force picked Love’s husband at the couple’s home in Matadi, a community I Monrovia, and rounded up the man’s wife (Love), his daughter and his mother-in-law (Mrs. Priscilia Barclay) from the mother-in-law’s house in Barnersville. They took Love’s husband to the 14th Military Hospital for treatment, and quarantined the rest of the family members at the Palm Spring Hotel & Resort.
“Priscilla’s husband had spent over 26 days in confinement at the Government’s Coronavirus Treatment Center, 14th Military Hospital, even though the Government’s Coronavirus-related medical diagnosis of him has shown negative,” Ms. Hawa Kaipa complained during the exclusive interview.
Many other citizens have expressed disgust against the Government’s holding up some quarantined persons beyond the 14-period announced by President George Weah during his Address to the Nation on “National Emergency” on COVID-19.
A 13-member staff of the Voice of Tappita, a community Radio Station in Nimba County, in North-Eastern Liberia, was quarantined by the Government of Liberia on Saturday, April 18, to go through the 14-day period. One of them was a female—Arkina Newa-Nenwah, Sales Director/Finance Officer of the Station. The Station’s Program Director, Barlinton Chea, has been isolated in his personal four-bedroom house, located at Thomas Hill community, because of his Diabetic status. The Government’s decision of confining the entire staff was based on the ‘body contact’ of one member—Jeremiah Gayflor, a Reporter, with a non-staff member who had tested positive with the Coronavirus and died later, according to information received by this writer.
“I’m a Diabetes patient, and often experience strangely high temperature, so I appealed for me to go through my fourteen-day quarantine in my own house,” Voice of Tappita’s Program Director, Barlinton Chea, spoke from his isolated corner to this writer on Wednesday, April 22.
When I spoke with Mr. Chea, he said he was using the “Master Bedroom”, of his four-bedroom, one inside bath-room apartment, in the Thomas Hill Community, Tappita for his quarantine period.
“I have four children and a wife who are banned from visiting me,” he responded in plaintive tone to this writer’s other inquiry about his family and accessibility. “My wife is in Monrovia; my children are on the Farm here in Nimba County. My youngest child was born in 2010.”
For Feeding, Mr. Chea said he had not seen food from the Government of Liberia since Saturday (April 18) when he was locked up.
“I’m being fed by neighbors. They bring the foods and drop them inside the fence of the house for me to see the foods when I open my room’s window or the front-door. One female neighbor brought twenty-five cups of uncooked rice for me,” he narrated.
The only Government official Mr. Chea had seen, he explained further, was the Government’s health worker assigned to him to check his temperature “every morning and evening,” he disclosed.
On how he feels being involuntarily separated from the company of his loved ones, Barlinton responded: “It is emotionally crushing on me, which can cause Hypertension or Pressure.”
Locked up, by the Government, in the tight transmission room of the building marked “Voice of Tappita”, the quarantined colleagues of Program Director Barlinton Chea were experiencing most conditions similar to his when I spoke with one of them.
“Since the Government sealed the Radio Station building, our quarantine center, on us, we’ve not seen any food from the Government,” shouted Mr. G. Emmanuel Weozleh, Station Manager of Voice of Tappita, with his 11 colleagues in quarantine in the Station, responding to this writer’s inquiry on Wednesday, April 22. “Only our relatives and neighbors are providing food and water for us.”
Emmanuel also said the Government had supplied only mosquito nets to those held up in the building.
“Besides the mosquito nets, only temperature checks, through health workers, the Government has been carrying out us since we were locked up in here by nine o’clock on Saturday, April 18,” Emmanuel added.
However, many members of the Government’s enforcement arm against spread of the Coronavirus are breaking the ‘social distancing’ (six-foot space) component of the general anti-Coronavirus law. They, armed with guns or herds man’s whip, often cram up in a team of eight or more Joint Task Force members at the back of many of the Pickups taking them to the field or bringing them back to base. I have seen this ‘over-crowdedness’ during each of my tours around the Nation’s Capital, Monrovia, since enforcement of the “national emergency” started on April 11.
The Government doesn’t give updates on the total number of persons being quarantined, so members of the public are living on assumption.
Coronavirus entered into Liberia in March, 2020. It first showing up in Wuhan, a port city of 11 million in the central Hubei Province of China, in 2019.