Watkins Initiative For Nations Acknowledges Liberia Current Steps To Contain Cases Of The Coronavirus Disease With Caution

Solomon Y. Watkins, Coordinator, Watkins Initiatives

Monrovia – Early Monday morning (March 16, 2020) Liberia woke up to wave of news that it has recorded the first case of Coronavirus disease, or COVID-19 as confirmed by health authorities of the country. President George M. Weah mentioned Mr. Nathaniel Blama, Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Agency, as the infected person. According to the President, Mr. Blama arrived in Liberia on Brussels Airlines on Friday night, the 13th of March 2020 along with several other officials of Government traveling on the same flight, but Mr. Blama chose not to be quarantined, in keeping with the health protocols that were in place at the airport. The government has assured an intensive tracing exercise is ongoing to identify and test all persons with whom he came into contact. 

Unfortunately, just a day after (Tuesday, March 17, 2020), the government has reported a second case. The new case, Jonny Philip, is a domestic worker in the home of Mr. Blama.  

The Government had called on all other persons who traveled on that flight and by-passed the mandatory screening protocols, are being made to report to the health authorities immediately and without any further delay, for testing. The government says it is very important that everyone follow the guidelines set out by the health authorities, and adapt to help fight the COVID-19. 

The Golden rules are: There must be a strong focus on hygiene from every individual and organization.  Everyone should wash their hands often, several times a day, with soap and running water, and use hand sanitizers, wherever available and affordable; All offices, businesses schools, churches, and places of public gatherings should provide hand-washing facilities at their entrances; There should be NO HANDSHAKING whatsoever. Use a nod of your head for greeting each other; All travels to and from all countries with over 200 or more Corona Virus cases are hereby banned; All citizens and residents are urged to avoid public gatherings and large crowds, and try to keep a minimum social distance of at least 6 feet from people with fever, cough, sneezing, and difficulty in breathing;  Non-essential travel by all officials of government is hereby banned; and  All non-essential employees of the government are hereby granted a paid leave until further notice. The Civil Service Agency will announce the roster of employees in this category.  

Others include: Minimize your travel within Liberia, and to and from abroad, to that which is absolutely necessary. This refers specifically to cross-border traders and travelers coming to Liberia from infected countries, and applies particularly to all Government officials.  Restrictions released by the government to ensure commuters movement is also welcoming.

The Watkins Initiative for Nations (WIN) joins the government and partners to call on all Liberians especially residents of the Old Road Community which is housed in Electoral District #10, Montserrado County, where Mr. Blama been living, to straightly adhere to these warnings and/or restrictions. The Watkins Initiative for Nations is undertaking on several measures including increasing awareness on COVID-19 preventions and processionary measures as well as providing protective gears to residents to mainly public areas in the area.

Meanwhile, the Watkins Initiative for Nations is calling on the government of Liberia to ensure the fight against the Coronavirus involves communities across the nation. Watkins Initiative for Nations believed that the government needs the community support to conduct contact tracing, and to ensure effective reporting of those suspected, as was demonstrated during Liberia’s fight against Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), something that is observed not part of the current measures aimed at fighting the Coronavirus.  

The Watkins Initiative for Nations cautions the Government to also safeguard the citizens are provided the necessary protective gears, and sanitary materials to help stop the quick spread of the virus. Liberia needs to establish public testing centers to guarantee a rapid testing, diagnostic and treatment mechanisms for all. More to that, let the government guarantee that those quarantined are provided proper medical treatment, care and support services in order to preserve public confidence in the health system.  

If the government lacking requisite preventive equipment or supplies (sufficient test kits), let a quick SOS call be placed to partners, especially the World Health Organization, to help safe Liberia from the hands of the Coronavirus disease.

We at the same time called on the government to take rigorous steps by releasing an ultimatum to those government officials who bypassed the screening and quarantine mechanism put in place by the Ministry of Health to report themselves for testing, or else face the full weight of the government. Already there is news that some are refusing to undergo testing and are everyday coming in contact with vast majority of the population due to their role as public officials. We need that political will from Government to help the nation arrest this matter.  

The Watkins Initiative for Nations wants the issue of coronavirus be treated with a matter of urgency, proper care and great deal of respectability and patriotism to state, knowing that the consequences of Coronavirus outbreak are very devastating for a recovering nation like Liberia to handle. Liberia traditional partners who always giving aid are equally under attack by the virus which suggest we have to think outside the box by taking the right precautionary measures as very imperative!